With shop after shop brandishing paper bags as an eco-friendly way to encase their goods, is the high street well on the way to saving the world, one green step at a time?
Apparently the humble brown bag is not the green good-doer we might think, though. Wrap, the government-funded company set up to reduce waste, raises the valid point that paper bags require far more energy to make and transport than plastic, have less re-use potential and produce methane if dumped in landfill. There’s also the disappointing fact that the rain can blight your retro brown bag look within seconds. At least plastic acts as a more waterproof case for your shopping and can be packed away more easily.
In fact, it takes almost four times as much energy to manufacture a paper bag as a plastic bag, according to a 2007 study funded by US plastic bag manufacturers. Paper bag manufacturing uses 20 times as much water as plastic, and paper requires more energy to be recycled.
So, while the war against plastic bags seems to have subsided in favour of paper, we’re conning ourselves in the eco stakes. Indeed, Reuseit.com maintains that ‘faced with the question of paper or plastic, the answer should always be neither’.
And, if you’re the smug user of a cloth shopper, don’t pat yourself on the back just yet. Cloth bags have to be used 131 times to reduce its environmental impact to that of a single-use plastic bag, according to an Environment Agency report this year.
So, the moral of the bag story is, don’t buy more than you can carry loose in your arms. That, or a brand new tax should be enforced on all bags. Let’s see how many people would class themselves as shopaholics then.
Picture credit: moomin lens