Myth #1: Paper grocery bags are a better environmental choice than plastic bags.
Fact: For all environmental impacts related to air emissions, water emissions and solid waste – those of paper bags are significantly greater than the plastic grocery bags:
Plastic bags use 40% less energy to produce and generate 80% less solid waste than paper.
Paper bags generate 70% more emissions, and 50 times more water pollutants than plastic bags.
- Even paper bags made from 100% recycled fiber use more fossil fuels than plastic bags
Myth #2: Plastic bags are the largest component of landfills.
Fact: The item most frequently encountered in landfills is paper—on average, it accounts for more than 40% of a landfill's contents. Newspapers alone take up as much as 13% of landfill space.
Myth #3: Plastic grocery bags take 1,000 years to decompose in landfills.
Fact: Virtually nothing – not paper, food, plastic or even compostable or bio degradable products – decomposes in today’s landfills, which are actually designed to be as stable and dry as possible. Research by William Rathje, who runs the Garbage Project, has shown that, when excavated from a landfill, newspapers from the 1960s can be intact and readable.
Myth #4: Plastic bags feed America’s addiction to oil.
Fact: Plastic bags are extraordinarily energy-efficient to manufacture. Less than .05% of a barrel of oil goes into making all the plastic bags used in the US while 93% - 95% of every barrel of crude oil is burned for fuel and heating purposes. Although they are made from natural gas or oil, plastic bags actually consume less fossil fuels during their lifetime than do compostable plastic and paper bags.
Myth #5: Compostable bags can degrade in backyard composts.
Fact: In order to break down, compostable bags must be sent to an industrial composting facility, rather than to backyard piles or municipal composting centers. The limited number of these facilities functioning in the US significantly reduces the viability of compostable bags as an alternative.
Myth #6: Plastic bags are the primary component of litter.
Fact: Cigarette butts, chewing gum, and candy wrappers account for about 95% of all litter in the English-speaking world. Education, as well as responsible use and disposal of all materials and products, is the key to reducing litter.
Myth #7: For people who live near water, paper bags are the environmentally friendly choice to protect marine wildlife.
Fact: Environmentally speaking, paper bags production creates more waste from energy use, air pollution, and water use no matter what part of the country a person lives in. Efficient waste management, which includes recycling, and improved anti-litter practices would make sure that any threat to the environment, including wildlife, would be reduced.
Myth #8: Low recycling rates for plastic bags prove recycling them doesn’t work.
Fact: The recycling infrastructure for plastic bags is in its infancy while paper is accepted in most recycling programs. A national at-store plastic bag recycling program would bring the recycling solution to everyone, and increase rates dramatically. It’s simple, all people need to do is bring their bag back to the store the next time they go shopping. With its program, one Southern supermarket chain recycles more than 21% of the volume of plastic bags it provides customers.
Myth #9: Recycling plastic bags is too expensive.
Fact: The price of not recycling them is high. Recycling can help save resources and minimize waste going to landfills. Also, recycling helps reduce litter, as bags are contained and stored. Its worth noting that we recycle paper and it takes 91% less energy to recycle a pound of plastic than it takes to recycle a pound of paper.
Myth #10: There’s no demand for recycled plastic.
Fact: Today there is a growing market for recycled plastic that didn’t exist 15 years ago. It’s also cheaper now to use recycled plastic than to obtain new materials, increasing potential for more recycling of used plastic bags. Recycled plastic grocery and shopping bags are currently being made into new consumer products such as clean new plastic shopping bags, outdoor decking and railing products.
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