Paper or plastic

We have been using the same shopping bags for around fifteen years.  We bought a bunch at Giant.  I think they are made out of recycled plastic for Coca-Cola bottles, so it is appropriate.  I use them because I don’t want to waste plastic bags, but mostly because they are much more convenient.  I can stuff in five or six 2 liter bottles of coke in each one w/o worrying that they will break and send everything crashing to the ground.

I am not sure how much pollution my shopping bags avoid. Plastic bags are bad for the environment, although banning them for shopping may not have much of a positive effect.  Lots of people use the bags for garbage. If they don’t have the plastic shopping bags, they buy plastic garbage bags.  Paper shopping bags cause no net harm to the environment, at least in America, since they are produced with a renewable resource and are biodegradable.  As I wrote in other places, paper is produced from thinning.  If forest owners cannot earn money from this, they cannot afford to thin and forest health is adversely affected.

Lately I read of another permutation.  The reusable bags get dirty and may carry pathogens. I don’t know about that.  I am not sure that I can wash my recycled plastic bags. I will try one. 

Banning plastic bags may cause more plastic to be used, as I explained above. Not using paper may harm forest health and reusing the same bags can make you sick. Nothing about the environment is simple.