Paper Bag vs Plastic Bag

Paper for grocery bags are made from virgin wood pulp or recycled paper or handmade papers from an abundant supply of commercial trees. Mostly they are made from Kraft paper. They do not used artificial dyes in the products. Paper bags maybe bleach (white) or unbleached(brown). Paper  grocery bags degrade relatively quickly in landfills  and other sites. From the aspect of biodegradability and raw materials, paper would likely win in the argument between paper or plastic.

Plastic has been thought to pile up landfills, generate litter, deplete natural resources and threat to our environment and marine life. however,the proponents argued that plastic grocery bags which is not environmentally friendly and non biodegradable in its characteristic can produce many more plastic bags for the same amount of expended energy than in papers. Meaning it only takes fewer natural resources such as coal and gas to produce plastic bags in bulk compared to paper bags.

Paper bags have an adverse impact in our environmental issues according to numerous studies that confirm it. Paper bags are significantly harmful to the environment than plastic bags. The Scottish report and the Boustead report. have  proved it. Paper bags  greatly affect water consumption, atmospheric acidification ( which can have an effect in human health, sensitive ecosystems, forest decline and acidification of lakes) and eutrophication of water bodies (which can lead to growth of algae and depletion of oxygen).

Chart used by Boustead in Comparing the Negative Effects of  Plastic bags and Paper bags in our environment


Paper bag
Consumption of nonrenewable primary energy
1.0 1.1
Consumption of water
1.0 4.0
Climate change (emission of greenhouse gases)
1.0 3.3
Acid rain (atmospheric acidification)
1.0 1.9
Air quality (ground level ozone formation)
1.0 1.3
Eutrophication of water bodies * 1.0 14.0
Solid waste production
1.0 2.7
Risk of litter
1.0 0.2

Banning the use of plastic bags raised numerous questions, but now a lot of people are reconsidering the idea of the proponent. Three years ago San Francisco was the first city in the United states to ban the widespread used of plastic shopping bag, and it was  followed by Palo Alto and Oakland. These cities, and the Bay Area generally, were the vanguard of this movement.

The bottom line here is , plastic bags seems to win against the battle between plastic and paper bags. In many instances paper bags is worse than plastic bags. If  we think logically, plastic bags are much easier to ship, weigh less, durable and convenient to use. while, paper bags weigh about 10 times more than plastic bags and require more fuel to carry to stores, it also breakdown easily so it needs double bagging and can cause more danger in our environment.

Reusable bags in their current form wins according to the environmental standpoint. We should switch completely to reusable bags and discourage other people from using paper bags. Reusable bags now are very trendy and fashionable. Famous British Designer like Anya Hindmarch and other fashion brand companies are promoting their own designs of reusable bags.