Paper or plastic? Decision is important than you think

Shannon Cron, photographer

One plastic bag provides enough petroleum to drive a car eleven meters. In Minnesota alone 1.2 billion plastic bags are used each year. If you do the math, that is enough petroleum to drive a car 820,212 miles. That’s enough to get you from BSM to San Francisco 400 times.

The effects of plastic on our earth carry a tremendously harmful impact––plastic makes up approximately 9% of landfills, taking nearly ten years to bio-degrade. Additionally, only 10% of plastic waste gets recycled. So though you may feel environmentally friendly when you chose to recycle your plastic, the effects are quite minimal.

Some may claim that although plastic is rarely recycled, families find ways to reuse plastic bags as lunch bags or even a way to pick up dog poop. But in just four trips to the grocery store, the average American family (four members) accumulates up to 60 plastic bags––more than enough Pooper-Scoopers.

Canvas bags act as another valid option for shoppers, as opposed to plastic ones. Costing only approximately $1 to purchase, they can easily be kept in your car or purse. Retail stores such as Urban Outfitters only offer eco-friendly canvas bags in an effort to reduce the country’s consumption of plastic.

Aldi has taken action by charging its customers ten cents per plastic bag, and six cents per paper bag. The grocery store also sells reusable canvas bags for $1.99––this not only provides a more eco-friendly option, but for frequent Aldi shoppers, a more economically savvy choice.

Though a total ban of plastic bags may seem unrealistic at this point, the future looks promising. Countries such as Italy and Rwanda have banned these environmentally harmful bags altogether. California will likely follow this example by passing a law banning plastic bags and mandating a 25 cent charge for all paper bags sometime in 2011.

So, next time you find yourself at the grocery store, choose paper, or better yet, a reusable bag––your planet will thank you.