Paper Or Plastic: Which is Best For the Environment?
When you shop for shopping bags, you may wonder, “What’s better for the environment: Paper or plastic?” regarding commercial waste, the answer may surprise you. Reusable paper bags are great, but they use more energy in recycling than plastic. That means more greenhouse gases are released. Studies also show plastic is better for the environment, but there’s still no clear winner. Read on to learn more about each type. After reading this article, you’ll know which ones are best for the planet.
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|High Density Polyethylene
Paper Or Plastic: Reusable Paper Bags
If you are a frequent shopper, you know how toxic plastic bags can be to the environment. Paper bags are no better: they create far more air and water pollution than plastic bags. Not only that, but they also require more energy to manufacture. A single paper bag can consume more energy than six plastic bags. Luckily, reusable paper bags are easier to recycle than plastic ones. Also, public bans on plastic bags are helping to increase consumers’ use of reusable paper bags.
- In South Australia, the ban has been in place for six months now.
- Toxic chemicals are released into the atmosphere during the process of making paper.
- Paper bags contain sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxide.
- These gases are harmful to both humans and the environment.
- Even though the paper is recycled, it takes chemicals to remove the ink and convert it into pulp. Because of this, paper bags contribute to acid rain.
The EPA has recommended avoiding plastic bags and using other recyclable materials instead. Although the environment is a growing concern, many people still use plastic bags and believe that reusable paper bags do not contribute to acid rain. While this is partially true, it is unlikely that reusable bags will significantly decrease the amount of acid rain in the environment. Furthermore, many retailers, such as Primark, give out paper bags.
To make the most of these bags, you should reuse them at least three times. Rather than using them once, you should also recycle or compost them. Reusable paper bags are better for the environment. They consume seventy per cent more energy and water than plastic bags. Recycled paper is also less durable. Paper bags also don’t contribute to acid rain as much as plastic bags.
This makes them a less desirable choice.
Paper Or Plastic: Environmental Benefits
The environmental benefits of reusable paper bags outweigh the costs.
They are also more energy-efficient. For example, paper bags take up much less space in landfills, so many people use them. Plastic bags decompose faster. The rapid degradation of plastic bags is attributed to the fact that they contain starch, a natural ingredient that is safe for users and environmentally friendly. The biological components of starch are deeply linked to the plastic circuit structure, and when exposed to environmental humidity, they ferment.
Microorganisms feed off the starch, making the plastic more resistant to water. Once buried in the atmosphere, bags and packages decompose entirely. Regardless of the type of bag, there are some apparent differences between biodegradable and non-biodegradable bags. Biodegradable bags, such as compostable bags, deteriorate more slowly. The scientists recommend that consumers know these differences and have clear information about the different materials.
In addition, the study suggests the need for standards for degradable materials, which should clearly outline a proper disposal pathway, rates, and degradation methods. In addition to biodegradation, sunlight and water can break down plastic’s chemical bonds. Plastic exposure to sunlight breaks down these chains, allowing microbe colonies to grow. However, exposure to sunlight does not entirely break down the plastic molecule, and carbon dioxide and hydrogen production rates decrease.
The final decomposition process entails the conversion of acetates into methane and hydrogen. The process also produces nutrient-rich soil. The rate of decomposition varies depending on the environmental conditions. In the open air, plastic breaks down more quickly than in landfills. The lack of oxygen, water, and light in landfills prevents decomposition. In addition, plastic bits contain toxic chemicals that end up in the bodies of animals and on shorelines.
The worst-case scenario is that human beings come into contact with these chemicals. However, the good news is that plastic bags decompose faster than the commercial waste discarded. Paper bags are more energy-efficient. While many believe plastic bags are the more environmentally friendly choice, this is not entirely true. Paper bags produce more energy than plastic bags; even recycled paper is not entirely free of energy-related problems.
For example, it takes more than ten times as much energy to manufacture a single paper bag as it does to make a plastic bag. Even the recycled paper used to make plastic bags is not nearly as durable as unbleached paper, so you may end up with a paper bag that is less durable than plastic.
Paper Or Plastic: Plastic Bag Strength
Plastic bags have a high strength-to-weight ratio, but the paper is weak. Putting a milk jug in a paper bag could cause a “Great Bottom Falling Out” syndrome. On the other hand, paper bags are much more pliable, making them much easier to tear. But the paper does have its advantages. Recyclability is an important factor, too, when considering the impact of commercial waste on the environment. Paper is less likely to be contaminated, making it easier to sort through at a recycling plant. Plastic, meanwhile, requires a significant amount of oil to create.
And it is much harder to recycle than paper. The environment should recycle paper, and it’s cheaper for your wallet. Paper bags also cost less to make, so you’ll save money over time. Paper bags are far less damaging to the environment than plastic bags. However, they are less durable and unlikely to be used often enough to offset their negative effects. They also are more energy-efficient. Considering that 68.1 per cent of paper in the United States is recycled, paper bags are an even better choice for energy efficiency.
And since they’re made from locally available materials, they save on transportation costs, too.
Paper Or Plastic: Plastic Bag Pollution
Many people believe plastic bags are less polluting than paper, but this could not be further from the truth. Plastic bags clog up storm drains, litter beaches, and entangle marine life. Even though plastics can break down over time, they take decades to disintegrate, leaving toxic residues in the water altogether. In addition, they take up tons of land and emit highly toxic leachates.
The average American uses 100 billion plastic bags every year. Of these, only a small portion is recycled. They clog recycling machinery and end up in landfills. While they do not cause much damage to landfills, their long life in the oceans means that they eventually end up in waterways and wildlife habitats. Ultimately, plastic bags are a waste product and should be avoided unless they can be recycled.
Paper Or Plastic: Environmental Impact
Using reusable bags will help to reduce the environmental impact of the packaging.
To produce plastic bags, raw materials are mined, including petroleum and natural gas. These materials are then refined and undergo polymerization. They are then mixed with recycled polyethene chips and transported via truck, train, or ship. Once there, they are cut into thin films and sent to manufacturers to be used in shopping bags. Making plastic bags is very complex but significantly less polluting than paper bags. The fight against plastic bags is an excellent way to spur environmental action.
Many cities and states are taking steps to cut their emissions due to rising fuel prices. However, many people still refuse to accept plastic bags because they are so expensive. Instead, it is necessary to focus on plastic bags’ effects on disadvantaged communities. These individuals and organisations should continue to be educated about the negative environmental impacts of plastic bags to protect our planet. Bioplastics are better for the environment.
The use of bioplastics is considered environmentally friendly. However, the biodegradation of bioplastics depends on their crystallinity, polymer chains, and the natural environment they are produced in. Some bioplastics have more favourable properties than others. This depends on their chemical structure, manufacturing process, and, most likely, EOL scenario. While paper decomposes quickly, bioplastics take thousands of years to break down in landfills.
The environmental benefits of biodegradable films are an excellent reason to choose bioplastics over paper. These materials are biodegradable once heated enough. However, these bioplastics don’t degrade as quickly in landfills, home compost heaps, or marine environments. Eventually, they are broken down into micro-sized pieces that can contaminate water and ocean ecosystems.
Bioplastic prices are higher than petroplastics because they are made in smaller plants. In addition, bioplastics do not benefit from the economies of scale that Big Oil enjoys. However, their manufacturing costs remain high.
Further research is needed to lower the manufacturing cost and improve bioplastics’ applications. It is also possible that plastics from plant materials will become a more common choice for many applications. A biodegradable byproduct of paper manufacturing is lignin, which is used as an additive for 3D printing and as an adhesive. Lignin can also be further processed into plastics with the help of other bioplastics. In addition to these advantages, bioplastics also reduce the need for fossil fuels and other raw materials. Thus, bioplastics are better for the environment than paper.
Paper Or Plastic – Learn more about UK business waste statistics here
Other useful links from our Commercial Waste Centre
The Benefits of Dry Mixed Recycling
Looking After Your Business Bins
Commercial Skip Hire – How to Find a Cheap Deal
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