Letter: Paper bags are a better choice environmentally than plastic ones

May 25, 2015

By: Montreal Gazette

Re: “The future of plastic bags” (Editorial, May 22)

We challenge your claim that “paper bags take more energy and precious resources to produce (than plastic shopping bags).”

First, what resources are more “precious”? The non-renewable fossil fuels that most plastic bags are derived from? Or the renewable trees that paper bags are made from? We would argue that fossil fuels are more precious, that we can’t get them back. Canada’s forests, on the other hand, are regenerated by provincial law. We use them over and over again.

Second, the comparative life cycle analyses (LCAs) that are often quoted make false assumptions about the energy used to make paper bag material in Canada. Yes, we use energy (as does the plastics industry), but most of the energy we use is renewable energy, carbon-neutral biomass, sawmill residues from sustainably managed forests. We do not use 100 per cent purchased electricity, as many of these studies assume. This can completely skew environmental conclusions.

Nor do these LCAs properly take into account the effect of plastic litter on aquatic and marine ecosystems. Paper bags are generally not a litter problem after use. They disintegrate over time, do not catch in trees and create visual pollution, do not clog water grates and cause flooding, and do not accumulate in streams, lakes and oceans.

By: Montreal Gazette

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