Paper vs Plastic: Some Facts

Bob Velo from Crosbys Market stated in the Gloucester Daily Times article that the cost for plastic bags are 3 cents vs 10 cents for paper bags.

Tax data cast doubt on claims about declining use of plastic bags in D.C.

By Mike DeBonis

The District’s four-year-old tax on disposable bags has been a rousing success, leading to a 60 percent drop in household bag use and many fewer plastic bags littering city streets. Such are the claims of city environmental officials, citing surveys done by an independent research firm last year.

City revenue figures, meanwhile, show no continuing decrease in the use of disposable bags. In fact, bag tax collections have proven remarkably stable since the nickel-per-bag fee debuted in January 2010.

Information from International Plastics website (for what it’s worth):

Recycling Partner

Recycling 4 live

Paper Bags VS: Plastic Bags – Real Numbers

Are plastic bags getting a bad reputation?

Look in almost any newspaper and more than likely you will find an article about local government that is considering to somehow regulate plastic bags. It is becoming easy to hate the “pitiful” plastic bag!

Paper vs. Plastic:

Articles usually leave out the facts as well as the side by side comparison. A truthful look at what is required to produce 1000 plastic bags versus 1000 similar paper bags. If the biased media would present the facts, as discerning people we could make educated and wise decisions.

If all the shoppers using plastic bags last year had used paper bags instead, they would have increased the amount of solid waste by over 100 million tons and taken up 7 times more space in landfills.

Paper VS Plastic Diagram

Lindle Willnow submits a great link with more facts from the National Cooperative Grocers Association-

Here is a reference that shows that neither option is that good but plastic seems to have a smaller, though longer lasting impact ( That said, I haven’t got on board with bringing my own.

Joey notes-

The 979 cubic inches for 1000 plastic bags vs  7188 cubic inches for paper bags does not take into account that after a year or two in a landfill that paper bag will be significantly less from decomposing and the plastic bag will be around forever.

10 thoughts on “Paper vs Plastic: Some Facts

  1. Besides the litter that Bill Cox mentions, there is the impact of plastic bags on wildlife. We’ve all seen those disturbing images of waterfowl having suffered a slow death a with plastic bags around there heads and mouths. I try to keep reusable bags in my car and need to make a firm commitment to further minimizing my plastic-bag quota. Thanks for the reminder.


  2. This is a needed discussion and it’s good to see the viewpoints! The problem I see this way is many are not taught about picking up after themselves and disposing properly – It was taught to us as kids and if your didn’t you got yelled at…Even when you have recepticles you must stay after them overflow = the answer my friend is blowing in the wind…They recycle everything this way and you have to separate it…when you have that many folks that’s lot’s of trash. The true answers lie in the humans themselves good stewarts take in take out.
    1970 PSA
    The Crying Indian – full commercial – Keep America Beautiful

    Adopt a highway or road, picnic’s and volunteers – community service – and low risk – minor offenses – offenders out of jails and working within the communities. I know many states instead of a fine offere them to clean-up in lieu of sends a strong message both ways as time is important to many! 🙂


  3. When I was growing up, we put our garbage in a pail that was sunk in the ground in the back yard and picked up by the garbage man who dumped it in the garbage truck and took it somewhere, the dump I suppose. Paper waste was put in large tin cans and taken away (can’t remember whether it was the by the same garbage man or a different service) or burned in a barrel in the same back yard as were leaves in the fall scenting the air deliciously. Sometimes we burned paper in the fireplace. Plastic bags hadn’t been invented so all bags were paper. Now even if I wanted to eliminate plastic bags what would I put my garbage in to take it to the dumpster? Yes, I could wrap it in a paper bag, but it would be considerably more messy. If I didn’t get plastic bags with groceries, I’d have to buy them which doesn’t seem to be like an elimination of the problem. Also of course those of us with dogs need some kind of plastic bag for their waste disposal – I buy biodegradable ones under what may be a delusion that these are better for the environment. A long comment but what I’m trying to say is that the solution to the problem is perhaps neither plastic nor paper but some even more environmentally conscious way yet to be conceived. Let’s think more imaginatively than either/or.


    1. On Bass Rocks, that garbage pail in the ground was for what my grandparents called “swill”. While cooking and clearing the dishes, all the discarded food was put in a bowl, as we would now set compost aside. At the end of the evening meal, the discarded food products were emptied outside in the swill bucket. As I remember, and as my grandparents told me, Mr. Nugent had a contract to empty and collect the swill to feed the pigs on his pig farm ~ behind Good Harbor Beach. Trash, or paper products were collected separately by the city. And yes, Mr. Nugents pig farm is now the town house development ~ Nugents Farm.


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