According to the articles attached, the National Cooperative Grocers association estimates that 10 billion paper bags are used in the United States per year – that dwindles in comparison to the 380 billion plastic bags used in the U.S. per year according the EPA. A very small fraction of both are recycled.
As far back as 2007, 90% of the bags stores used were plastic. Several things have changed since then: certain cities have added an additional charge for consumers who choose plastic bags, some cities have outlawed them all together, and many people have started using reusable bags to carry their groceries home in. So, the percentage should be lower by now, but perhaps not significantly.
A 2007 report to the Los Angeles County Board of supervisors on carry out bag usage was initiated to bring attention to the issue and sought ways to reduce their use. Plastic bag use ranges to over 6 billion which comes out to 600 bags for each person. Less than five percent are recycled. The resulting waste makes up .4 percent of the solid waste disposed every year. Paper bags make up about 1 percent of the solid waste. These bags however have higher recycling rates at twenty one percent.
The production of plastics bags can cost over 100 a barrel for the oil used and take over 1,000 years to decompose. To make paper bags 14 million trees needed to be cut down.
There is actually a lot of information out there that suggests paper bags are just as bad for the environment as plastic bags if not worse. Paper bags actually use 70% more air and 50 times more water pollutants than plastic bags. Paper bags also use 4 times as much energy to construct compared to a plastic bag. The paper bags also use 84 times the energy to recycle than the plastic bag. No matter what bag your using make sure to reuse for other purposes!
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