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In response to the American Chemistry Council's attack on paper bags in the Los Angeles Times

Apr 30, 2010
Paper Bags are the Choice for the Environmentally Conscious

Letter to the Editor - LA Times
Response to ACC

In response to the American Chemistry Council’s vehement attack on paper bags in the Los Angeles Times on April 30th, the record needs to be set straight.

When it comes to choosing a grocery bag for the environmentally-conscience,
there’s really no comparison between paper and plastic. To start, recent studies show that for every paper bag you’ll use at the grocery store, you’ll need to use three plastic ones to hold the same amount of groceries. Furthermore, unlike plastic, paper bags are made from a renewable and sustainable resource and their use creates a demand for trees that has resulted in the industry planting more than 1.7 million new trees each day. These new trees more than make up for those that are cut and, in fact, there are more trees in the U.S. today than there were 20 years ago. Furthermore, paper bags are highly recyclable – boasting a national recycling rate of more than 37 percent compared to just 9.8 percent for plastic bags. The paper bag is highly recycled and serves as the receptacle for other types of household recyclable paper like newspapers, envelopes, magazines, catalogs, and printer paper. Paper bags are made from natural fiber and are biodegradable used in leaf composting programs across the country, while plastic can take up to 1,000 years to fully degrade.

Moreover, plastic grocery bags require almost 50 percent more fossil fuel energy than paper grocery bags over the full life cycle. Consider also that two thirds of the energy used to manufacture paper is from carbon neutral, renewable biomass and that the paper bag’s carbon footprint is nearly 60 percent smaller than a plastic bag based on a comparison conducted using
the plastics industry’s own life cycle assessment.

The paper industry does agree with the plastics industry on the need to continue to encourage Californians to recycle. Recycling helps reclaim a valuable resource and is a win-win for business and for the environment.

Cathy Foley
Renewable Bag Council

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