Is Banning Plastic Bags Really the Ultimate Answer?

It is common knowledge that more and more cities and towns are choosing to ban plastic bags. Many of them are passing stringent policies that will discourage the use of plastic bags. Most recently, the New York City Council slapped a 5-cent fee per single-use plastic bag. Also, the Massachusetts senate has proposed a total ban of plastic bags that are dispensed by most retailers. In Massachusetts alone, over 30 towns have chosen to ban the bags or regulate them with punitive fees. In California, at-least 80 towns and localities have banned plastic bag use. Globally, more and more countries are choosing to ban plastic bags. All these are signs that the world is now in agreement that phasing out plastics could be the way forward to a better world.

The effects of plastic bags are evident in society today.

  • They litter landfills and drainage systems.
  • They also choke oceans and become a hazard to marine life.
  • Also, they cause much havoc in towns; and cities have to spend a fortune to clean them up. For example, the Sanitation Department in New York City collects over 1,700 tons of single-carry bags every week. Annually, they have to spend $12.5 million to dispose the bags and keep the city clean.

Banning of the bags has led to significant reduction in the plastic menace in cities such as San Jose and Washington DC. The plastic bag fees have also played a small role to discourage the ill effects of the bags.

With all the above in mind, what then is the best replacement for plastic bags? This has been a highly debated question in various circles. Many assume that paper bags are the best option because they are biodegradable. However, a study by an Australian government agency was done in 2007 on this topic. The conclusion was that paper bags have a higher carbon footprint than plastic bags. This may be shocking but here is the logic. Paper bags are thicker and require more energy in production compared to plastic bags. In addition, the paper bags are heavier and transporting them is more costly than plastic bags. Of course, reusable bags are excellent and you can check out these reusable bags.

Many environmental experts will certainly prefer paper over plastic any day. However, when considering the environment, you have to go beyond concerns of climate change. There are many other forms of climate degradation like the need for very high energy in production. In all this, most people acknowledge that plastics are toxic in nature. They literally choke marine life and the consequences are suffered by humans. Cotton used to make paper bags takes up more than 5,000 gallons of water per pound to produce. In addition, cotton cannot be recycled. The Australian study concluded that the best bags to use are reusable ones made from plastic and not cotton.

The whole point here is that no matter which option is chosen for any locality, there are both merits and demerits. However, all people can learn how to recycle and reuse which will go a long way in reducing the environmental impact. The societal problem as a whole could be over-consumption. In this case, a change in attitude could be the game-changer.

Do you recycle and do your part to help the environment?

Leave your tips and ideas in the comment section and please share this article!

A Green and Rosie Life

About the author

Hi! Thanks for visiting my blog! I believe in living green, organically, and natural in every aspect of our lives. My mission is to help educate you on how to live green, help save our environment and to help you and your family live a happier, healthier life!

19 thoughts on “Is Banning Plastic Bags Really the Ultimate Answer?”

  1. Banning the plastics does come to the ultimate answer but alternative needs to be taken into consideration as well. For this, use of eco-friendly products like paper bags, bamboo bags, or other environment friendly materials can be used to carry the grocery and other daily stuffs that we use in the plastics bags.

    1. Hi Siddhant,
      Yes I totally agree that alternative solutions like bamboo and other environmentally friendly materials need to be used. This article was just focusing on whether banning plastic and using paper is the best choose. Thank you for stopping by and commenting. Have a healthy, happy & blessed day!

  2. The environmental effects of choosing an apparently greener path is something that greatly interests me. What may initially seem a good green choice will always have some negative impacts and it is important that we do not switch one bad process for another. Banning/charging for plastic bags has hugely raised awareness of the problems they create, mainly about pollution but also in the release of greenhouse gases in their manufacture. With increased awareness comes the ability to change our lifestyle choices and demand better in all things. Whatever we do will come with some negative impacts but, for example if paper bags take more energy to be produced this could be negated by using more renewable energy. It may be a case of one step forward, one step back in some cases as the effects of everything we do are so complicated and involve so many factors. The path to a greener world will be a very convoluted one. For the simple sake of the oceans we cannot continue our increasing use of plastic bags and packaging but it may be a while before we find a solution that is ultimately better for the planet.

    Thank you for adding this post to the #GoingGreen linky and apologies for taking so long to come and read it. After a summer break the linky will be back again with a new one opening on Sept 3rd. Hope to see you there (and I hope you had a brilliant summer!).

    1. Hi Rosie,
      You sure are right about living green and trying to help make our environment greener is very complicated and sometimes it is one step forward and one step backward. But we sure do did to stop polluting the ocean with plastic. Looking forward to #GoingGreen Linky starting up again. I hope you had a healthy, happy & blessed summer.

  3. Hi my name is annastee I like this ’cause I did a thing about the great barrier reef.

    1. HI Annastee,
      Glad you liked my article. Thanks for stopping by and commenting. Have a healthy, happy & blessed day!

  4. Gina Caro @ Gypsy Soul

    I think the plastic bag charges and bans have really woken people up to the plastic issue that we are currently facing. Lots of people moaned to start with but now people seem to be really on board with the idea. Small steps and all that 🙂 #GoingGreenLinky

    1. HI Gina,
      I agree with you that the bag fees and bans have woken people up and it is one step at a time can change the world efficiently. Thanks for stopping by and commenting. Have a healthy, happy & blessed day!

  5. I have jute canvas bags I’ve used for over 15 years now for shopping trips and i have one of those small fold up bags clipped to my handbag so I never get caught short, I refuse 90% of plastic bags I’m offered and it’s a battle to pack my own bags in Dubai in the supermarkets #triumphanttales

    1. Canvas certainly is a good choice. Thanks for doing your part to help the environment by refusing plastic bags. Have a healthy, happy & blessed day!

  6. I think changing attitudes and making sure people are really aware of how awful plastic bags are, is a big step. I know here in the UK they are less available but still a lot in use. Paper is a tough one because again it’s not always good for the environment. I wonder what we would do if we did ban plastic bags totally? What did people do before they were invented?
    Interesting to think about!

    #goinggreen

    1. There are no easy answers to plastic, paper or what is best or worse. It’s finding some kind of sensible solution and people following through, recycling, reusing, and using paper or plastic properly. I think before there were plastic life was very different and what we thought was progress wasn’t actually completely true. When the industrial revolution after WW2 many things changed and people starting living faster paced lives and with that came waste, contamination and harm to our planet and health. If you look back in history you have to wonder how it all got this way so quick.

  7. Really thought provoking, particularly the comment about paper not always been as environmentally friendly as plastic at first glance. There are pros and cons for anything so we tend to use canvas bags for our shopping. I’m particularly fond of my Doctor Who, “Bag for all time”.

    1. HI Tubbs,
      There sure is pros and cons for both plastic and cloth. You just got to weight them out and make the best choose for your situation. Canvas sure does sound like a good option. Thanks for stopping by and commenting. Have a healthy, happy & blessed day!

  8. There are pros and cons to all solutions but I agree we need a major reduction in plastic use. I use reusable bags mostly but I do like cotton ones as they are washable. A study of reusuable bags found most had bacteria on the bottom of the bag from food spills.

    1. Hi Carol,
      Yes you are correct there are pro’s and cons to both. We just need to weight out what makes the most sense and what works out best for your individual situation. But there sure is not argument that we need to reduce plastic consumption! Thanks for stopping by and commenting!

  9. I try to reduce my daily use of plastic to help the environment. There are already many natural alternatives for plastic products that we could and should use. I found in particular the reuseable food wraps very helpful to preserve my food. They are not only all natural, plastic free and handmade, but also, as the name says, reuseable! I think this is one of the eco-friendliest products ever, which is why I strongly support them.

    1. Hi Robin,
      I certainly agree with you that there are many alternatives to plastic products that would should be using. Thanks for stopping by and commenting. Have a healthy, happy & blessed day.

Would love to know your thoughts!