With paper or plastic, pick neither

Paper or plastic? My head says paper, my dog walking side says plastic, and my heart says neither.

When you look at the facts, it is hard to accept that “paper or plastic” is still a viable option in the retail world. Because consumers are given the option, does not mean that they must take either one; there’s baggage attached to both.

The initial sell of plastic was to reduce the amount of trees destroyed for paper bags. Now that our society continues to improve in the ways of recycling almost anything, plastic appears to be the better option. However, it still takes a large amount of natural resources to produce products made from recycled materials. The process of producing then recycling a plastic bag is a little like hot dogs: if you actually knew how it was done and what it took, you would probably never want them again.

My friend, Jennifer Geeslin, is a marketing manager for a green multi-media company. She walks the walk by taking her professional research into her personal life and can back up any green factoid she shares with you. At the mere mention of plastic bags, she can light one on fire with her eyes.

As we were discussing the plastic bag debate, we touched on U.S. cities that tax plastic bag use as Washington D.C. does. When I slightly scoffed at the idea of a five-cent tax moving anyone into action, she politely, yet firmly scolded me.

“Did you know that D.C. has reduced their annual plastic bag use from 22 million a year to just three million a year?”

“No, I did not.”

“It’s on Treehugger.com,” Jennifer tells me. “Taxes do work if people aren’t willing to ban them all (plastic bags) outright,” she said to me in her ever so slight Texas drawl.

Those figures truly surprised the hell out of me because five cents doesn’t motivate me to do much. It gives me hope, however, that other cities will take similar actions and elevate consciousness when it comes to accepting a plastic bag at a store.

“It’s hard to have people change their behavior altogether. Smart people have been slowly making use of canvas bags,” Jennifer tells me. Embarrassingly, I’m not that smart all of the time and there’s no reason I shouldn’t be.

Forget Jennifer and me and pay attention to this. By eliminating or severely reducing plastic bag use, we can:
Be like China who is saving up to 37 billion barrels of oil by issuing a countrywide moratorium on plastic bags.

Force the rest of the state to do as San Francisco did three years ago by outlawing plastic bags in grocery stores and large drug-store chains. Fairfax, Palo Alto and Malibu have done it. A Santa Cruz countywide ban will go into effect this November.

Reduce the amount of litter, especially in the now infamous, great garbage patch in the Pacific Ocean.

With all of this being said, paper bags contribute much more solid waste, emissions and waterborne waste than plastic bags (this fact courtesy of www.americanchemistry.com.)
I surrender.

Let’s bag the bag entirely and replace the question “paper or plastic” with “got canvas?” Jennifer loves this idea. So do I.