Plastic Bags Have Lower Carbon Footprint Than Paper or Cotton Bags

(p. B5) The backlash against single-use plastic has engulfed straws, bags and takeout containers, but the plastics industry is fighting back, arguing alternatives can be worse for the environment and disruptive for businesses.

. . .

Critics of bans say single-use plastic bags are often used several times, and that they can be recycled at many supermarkets.

The American Progressive Bag Alliance, a trade body for plastic-bag manufacturers, is battling proposed bag bans in states including Maine and New Jersey.

. . .

The APBA highlights a U.K. government analysis that found paper bags must be used three times for their carbon footprint to drop below that of single-use plastic bags made from high-density polyethylene—or HDPE—and cotton bags 131 times. The study measured the impact of making paper bags by counting the use of energy and palm oil, and the disposal of ash from production. It said growing cotton and producing yarn depletes natural resources, emits damaging chemicals and depletes oxygen in water bodies.

The trade group, which says bans aren’t successful at reducing overall waste, said a study found thicker, reusable plastic bags wound up in Austin’s waste stream after the Texas city banned single-use plastic bags in 2013.

. . .

Some companies feel caught in the middle. McDonald’s Corp. scrapped plastic straws in the U.K. last year but now faces a backlash. Over 44,000 people recently signed a petition calling for the chain to bring back plastic straws, complaining that paper replacements go soggy and make it hard to drink milk shakes.

Others point to their use of plastics as a sustainability selling point.

Garçon Wines—a London-based firm that makes flat plastic wine bottles that fit through a mail slot—said its recycled bottles are 87% lighter than glass and shaped to allow more wine to be shipped in the same space, reducing emissions.

For the full story, see:

Saabira Chaudhuri. “In Plastics War, the Industry Fights Back.” The Wall Street Journal (Tuesday, May 21, 2019): B5.

(Note: ellipses added.)

(Note: the online version of the story has the date May 20, 2019, and the title “In Plastic-Bag Wars, the Industry Fights Back.” Where there are minor differences in wording, the passages quoted above follow the online version.)

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