Paper or Plastic?

It is the question that everyone will get at some point in their life when they go to a grocery store. Usually, its not a complicated one. Paper are sturdier for heavier loads, but only if it isn’t raining. Plastic is preferred for small purchases and inclement weather. When the decision moves past the evaluation of these simple costs, you end up with a lot of nonsense, especially when its under the guise of which is “greener.” And that is what Oregon is debating for a new bill: how would you like to kill the earth today, paper or plastic?

From the Oregonian:

[State Senator Mark] Hass is spearheading a bill that is up for a hearing Tuesday in Salem that would outlaw single-use plastic bags at checkout. Paper bags would remain legal.

His plastic bag indictment: They contribute to litter, are minimally recycled, regularly gum up recycling sorting machines, harm marine life and are made from fossil fuels.

But Seattle voters shot down a bag fee last year, and the Save the Plastic Bag Coalition, backed by bag producers, has scored a series of victories in California. Stephen Joseph, the coalition’s attorney, said he’s “horrified” that San Francisco is passing out paper instead of plastic.

“The evidence is very strongly in favor of plastic bags being better for the environment,” Joseph said.

They both have their benefits, but both are terrible for the environment. Fighting over which is worse is a waste of time. I like pointing out how silly this debate actually is because it shows an example of taking the idea of “going green” a step too far. However, solutions are available that doesn’t necessitate bans, and should not be overlooked.

Joe Gilliam, president of the Northwest Grocery Association, said grocers’ voluntary efforts have boosted reusable bag use by 400 percent in four years, with about a tenth of customers using them. But the association, which represents large grocers, is wary of a ban. Some customers — especially those who walk or wait for the bus in the rain — prefer plastic, he said. Others use them for garbage-can liners, lunch bags and picking up after their dogs.

Melinda Merrill, a Fred Meyer spokeswoman, said grocers also worry about cost, with paper bags three or four times more expensive than plastic. A voluntary marketing push — and a nickel-a-bag credit for reusable bags — allowed Fred Meyer to order 14 million fewer plastic bags and 2.2 million fewer paper bags in 2008 than in 2007, when it began offering 99-cent canvas bags.

Moral of the story? Switch to your own bags. Companies pay you to do so. You can feel good too and gives you the freedom to exact your moral superiority over those who find value in refusing to use their own. Everybody wins.

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