Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Paper vs. Plastic.

I realize that I am a prejudice participant in this topic, as I work in the Pulp and Paper industry, but come on. Here are facts that I will leave the experts to fight:


Time for materials to break down in a landfill:

Plastic bags 1,000 years

Aluminum cans 80-100 years

Tin cans 50-100 years

Plastic-coated milk cartons 5 years

Orange peels 6 months

Paper 2-5 months

I worked as a Union Organizer and tried to organize a Plastic Bag plant called Roplast Industries Inc. in Oroville, Ca. They were paying people who had worked there for years under $10 an hour. Just no respect for the workers. When I did research, I was shocked to see how a corporation can twist facts into their favor. They were of the opinion that they were the environmentally “safe” process and product. Boggles my mind to how that can be true. roplast.PlasticVsPaper.

Anyways, I have been known to tell people at checkout lines to ask for the paper. We do not have a plastic plant here. (thank God)

Please ask for the renewable biodegradable product in the form of the paper bag. Maybe use it as mulch in your garden, burn it for fuel or recycle it at your favorite grocery store.


The Boy Most Likely to ... said...

So when I take my plastic bags back to the recycle bins at the stores, do they just throw them away? I could have done that at home.

I dig the paper bags that come with the handles, like they have at Longs sometimes.


Carol said...

Paper bags do make great garden mulch. I also try to bring cloth bags to the store, too.

Fred said...

I started using paper bags when I go to Winco a while back. Once done with them, I use them to take my plastic and metal stuff to the recycling center then toss the bags in the cardboard bin when I'm done with them.

I usually try not to take any bag when I go to other places like Rite Aid. Problem is, I think using the plastic bags and putting sold items in them is second nature to many store employees. Seems like if I don't tell them I don't want my stuff in a bag right away, before you know it they've put my stuff in a bag.

That's considered efficiency by the cashiers, but an annoyance to me. Especially when they use up a whole bag to put a bottle of antacids in.

Fred said...

Oh, I might mention that it seems lately the cashiers at Rite Aid actually have been asking me if I want my stuff in a bag or not. Don't know if that's some new policy or some of them are just getting used to me.

Beachcomber said...

It's funny, I've been using cloth bags for so long (some of my bags are older than two of my kids...) that I feel odd if I DON'T use them. I even take the cloth into Target, Michael's though it does through the clerks off from their normal process. I've even had them put their plastic bag INTO my cloth bag...*sigh*
One thing about your stats, Richard...I remember seeing a documentary once with William Rathje (he calls himself a "garbologist" and does archaelogical digs in landfills). Aaaaaanyway, he took a core sample in a dump and found newspapers and phone books that were 20-30 years old. They have to have sun and air to decompose so things are kinda mummified under piles of more trash. Blew me away because at the time I saw the film, I was a radical "paper instead of plastic" girl because, "hey, paper will break down". After that, I started using cloth. I'm sure your job is safe since we all still have to use paper but its a good thing to keep in mind when we get complacent about things breaking down in the landfill.
Pardon my speech...I have an unnatural fascination with landfills.

mlwinkle said...

We almost always take our own cloth bags to the store. We compost wet garbage. The rest of the trash is so clean that we don't need to use a trash bag. We put trash directly in the container.

Tara said...

It is good to factor in the decomposition/waste aspect of it, but we should also consider the manufacturing end. Plastic manufacturing consumes huge amounts of water, and uses a non-renewable resource. Also, the amazing dispersion ability of the ubiquitous plastic bag is almost creepy. You can't go down a highway hardly anywhere without seeing it floating around, screwing up habitats and killing wildlife. Paper bags, when they do escape, don't do nearly so much harm. But "neither" is of course a better answer.

I always keep several cloth bags, and several plastic and paper bags, nested together in my car, at the ready. And if it's just an item or two, I just tell the cashier I don't need a bag, thanks. The one that gets me is when they put a plastic jug gallon of milk in a plastic bag. Geez.

Can you believe we're still so far away from figuring this out, 30 years after the start of the "reduced packaging and waste" movement?

samoasoftball said...

tara-You would think we could find some common ground on this topic by now.

Gary said...

Some years ago when I moved to Arcata, I realized the checker's mantra was "Do you want a bag for that?" I quickly learned about expandable cloth bags.

So one night I'm in line at Hutchin's and a college kid comes in, obviously on a booze and cigs run for the house. He runs between the counter, the frig and back gathering a variety of beer brands and numerous bottles, orders a handful of cigarette brands, and proceeds to pay by pulling out wads of bills and handfuls of coins from every available pocket.

The counter is cluttered and piled with booty. There's a long pause as the customer and checker stand immobile, staring at each other. The checker breaks the stand off, looks at the customer through the glazed eyes of a bored stoner and says, "Do you want a bag for that?"