Top 10 reasons why you should use Paper Bags instead of Single Use Plastic Bags
Picture this – You are at the grocery store, done with billing and about to check out when the executive at the counter tells you will need an extra grocery shopping bag and will need to pay extra for the bag. You agree to pay the amount as you find the cost to be negligible compared to cost of grocery and will save trouble carrying the grocery. And you carry home a single use plastic bag.
What happened with you happens with hundreds and thousands of us almost every day. However little do we realize that the negligible extra cost that we pay is not the actual cost we pay for the plastic bag. We pay much more than we ever realize. However of great convenience and use a single use plastic bag may be, it comes at a very heavy price and has resulted in one of the biggest environmental challenges. This approach is having a devastating impact on our oceans, our wildlife, and our health.
Just because the plastic is single use does not mean it is easily disposable. When discarded in landfills or in the environment, plastic can take up to a thousand years to decompose.
A report by United Nations Environment Program estimated that between one to five trillion plastic bags are consumed worldwide each year. Five trillion is almost 10 million plastic bags a minute. If tied together, they would go around the world seven times every hour and cover an area twice the size of France. Moreover our reliance on plastics means we are accumulating waste at a staggering rate. We produce 300 million tons of plastic each year worldwide, half of which is for single-use items. That’s nearly equivalent to the weight of the entire human population.
Consider the fact that in the United Arab Emirates, 11 billion plastic bags are used annually (according to a report presented at the World Government Summit in February 2019), which is the equivalent of 1,182 plastic bags per person per year. According to the report, it is considered a very high rate compared to the global average of 307 bags per person per year, while the rate in European Union countries is about 200 bags per person per year. This number drops to 5 single-use bags per person per year in Denmark. Though in this context, there is a lack of data on per capita consumption in the Emirate of Abu Dhabi and it is an issue the government is trying to address and make the entire Emirate free of single use plastic bags by 2021.
Plastics in the environment pose significant hazards to wildlife both on land and in the ocean. High concentrations of plastic materials, particularly plastic bags, have been found blocking the breathing passages and stomachs of hundreds of different species including camels and sheep. Plastic bags in the ocean resemble jellyfish and are often ingested by turtles and dolphins who mistake them for food. There is emerging evidence that the toxic chemicals added during the manufacturing process transfer from the ingested plastic into the animals’ tissues, eventually entering the food chain for humans as well. When plastic breaks down into micro plastic particles, it becomes even more difficult to detect and remove from the open oceans. Not to forget that plastic in landfills ends up emitting harmful greenhouse gases. Therefore, the one of the most effective mitigation strategy is to reduce their input especially of single use plastic bags.
Unfortunately it is not often that we think about the environment. And it is less than often we think about the impact our actions have on the environment. It is even rare that we realize our simple actions can have a significant impact on saving the environment. Even something as simple as switching to using paper bags over single use plastic bags benefits not just the environment but businesses too. A simple switch can do a lot of good more in case of single use plastic.
Yes a simple switch to paper bags over a single use plastic bags can helps us help in doing our bit in combating the plastic menace and take us a step closer to protecting the environment.
And there are many reasons to do so…
- Paper bags are eco-friendly – Paper bags are becoming much more eco-friendly with use of environment friendly material like coconut husk, sugarcane waste, jute twine, elephant excreta among other environment friendly materials. Add to these paper bags produced from FSC certified paper helping paper bags gain an edge over single use plastic bags. These eco-friendly produced bags are perfect companions in our journey to save the environment.
- Easy to recycle – One of the things that work in the favour of paper bags is how easy it is to recycle a paper compared to plastic bags. Moreover only 9% plastic gets recycled. A whopping 91% of all plastic isn’t recycled at all according to an observation by NDRC NDRC further reports that single-use plastics in particular—especially small items like straws, bags, and cutlery—are traditionally hard to recycle because they fall into the crevices of recycling machinery and therefore are often not accepted by recycling centers. So next time you are tempted to pick up a single use plastic bag remember it is going to end up adding to the environmental woes.
- Consumes less energy while recycling – They consume less energy in comparison to recycling plastic. No wonder paper is amongst the highest recycled material in the packaging industry. The Energy Information Administration claims a 40% reduction in energy when paper is recycled versus paper made with unrecycled pulp, while the Bureau of International Recycling (BIR) claims a 64% reduction.
- Decomposable – If you are the one to believe results can come fast then you have every reason to cheer for compared to plastic paper decomposes fast. Where a paper bag takes about a month to decompose, a single plastic bag may take up to 10 years or more to decompose.
- Biodegradable – Paper bags are biodegradable. Therefore they decay easily and do not mound on dump sites. Unlike plastics you don’t have to keep on waiting for years and years to degrade.
- Paper bags easily disintegrate into simpler forms and thus are harmless to nature, marine, wildlife and cattle. They also help in keeping nature clean.
- Compostable – Paper bags are compostable. Thus using compostable paper bags reduces greenhouse gases, returns nutrients back to the earth and improves soil quality, and costs less than sending waste to landfills.
- Reusable – Advancements in technology have helped enhance the strength and durability of paper bags. Paper bags can now be reused multiple times. These are now best reusable bags for groceries and shopping, amongst the many things on your list.
- Help conserve natural resources – Since paper bags are now made from ecofriendly materials like coconut husk, sugarcane waste, FSC certified paper amongst other things they help conserve natural resources.
- Be the one who genuinely cares for nature but also stands up for protecting it. So use, reuse and finally recycle the paper bags you and make an active contribution in protecting the environment. In addition consider (rather opt for) using bags made with FSC Certified paper and recycled paper which help conserve the forests.
Alternatively a better thing would be to always carry a multiple reuse or a reusable shopping bag like a cloth bag or thick reusable plastic bags which can be used multiple times.
Thus a small switch contributes in a big way towards saving and protecting the environment. More importantly it takes us closer to nature and strengthens the resolve to curb the plastic menace. It is the right time to switch to eco-friendly paper bags and persuade others to join too. Say no to single use plastic bags switch to paper bags. Make that switch for better!!