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WWRA: Ask for paper bags, not plastic

(Chelsea Update would like to thank Laura Scriven for the information in this column.)

What do you do with all those plastic bags?

That seems to be a pretty common question in my house. They seem to multiply and grow in the bags where we keep them in the garage.

Unfortunately, Western Washtenaw Recycling Authority (WWRA) is unable to recycle them. However, it’s something we are looking into for the future.

So for now, we have a few suggestions about how to deal with the growing mound of plastic bags in your home. Polly’s Country Market has recycling tubes in the front entrance of the store and they can also be recycled at Best Buy.

Another option is to not use them — ask for paper, instead.

Paper bags are usually made from recycled materials than can be recycled through the single-stream recycling system at WWRA.

A third option is bring your own small portable bag. Some reusable grocery bags are made to fit into a pocket or purse. Or, you can purchase and reuse cotton bags.

So, the next time you are headed out shopping, think about how easy it is to help the environment and save a few pennies.

If you have any questions of comments please contact Laura Scriven at [email protected]

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3 thoughts on “WWRA: Ask for paper bags, not plastic”

  1. Or take one with you when you go out to walk and fill it with litter. (Best in the winter when you’re wearing gloves.) Then you’ll feel terrific about throwing the whole mess in the trash!

  2. I thought we had been through this before, people. See

    Paper’s main claim to ecological superiority is its status as a renewable resource But over 14 million trees are cut each year to produce paper grocery bags, with significant harm to the environment, including increases in greenhouse gases. While plastic does require the petrochemical ethylene to produce, this compound is largely produced in association with the refining of petroleum into fuels. The lighter and less voluminous plastic bags also require much less energy to transport. Other problems with paper compared to plastic:

    Paper bags production requires 25 times as much water as plastic bags do. And paper sacks generate 70% more air and 50 times more water pollutants than plastic bags
    Paper bags consume nearly four times as much energy in production compared plastic. Both use about the same amount of non-renewable energy
    While it is true that recycling rates are lower for plastic, it takes 91 percent less energy to recycle a pound of plastic than it takes to recycle a pound of paper.
    In a landfill, plastic bags require much less space than paper. All plastics account for about 10% of landfill mass; paper products as a whole are nearly half. It is true that plastic does not decompose as quickly as paper. However, modern landfills are explicitly designed to prevent contents from biodegrading to avoid groundwater contamination and air pollution Also, bio-degradation, were it allowed to occur, releases carbon dioxide to the atmosphere, possibly contributing to climate change.
    Plastic bag litter is claimed to cause the deaths of up to 100,000 marine mammals per year. This claim is based on a misrepresentation of the original research that has now been acknowledged. There is little evidence for any systematic injury to marine mammals or birds due to plastic bags
    Without ready access to surplus plastic bags, people turn to alternatives. For example, after Iceland banned plastic bags, the sale of commercial plastic garbage bags increased by 77%.

    The clear conclusion is that, while both plastic and paper impact the environment to some degree, plastic is overall somewhat friendlier to the environment. Choose plastic if you wish.

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