Paper vs. Plastic: Which Is Better for the Environment?


How many times have you been asked “paper or plastic” at the grocery store and wondered which was actually better for the environment? Well, it’s kind of a trick question because experts say neither is as sustainable as a reusable bag that you bring to the grocery store every time you shop (preferably one made of a natural material like cotton, rather than a synthetic one)..

Plastic is generally a better choice in terms of the resources that it takes to produce the bags in the first place.

Paper requires more materials and the process used to create the bags is generally more resource-intensive than with plastic bags.But unfortunately I wish us environmentalists could come up with super-definitive things because we always have caveats.” One worth noting here is that paper bags get bonus points if they’re made of recycled materials — and paper-bag manufacturers are working on ways to make the production process more eco-friendly.

Which brings us to our next caveat …

Plastic bags are much harder to recycle.

When plastic bags are sent to materials recovery facilities (MRFs), they tend to gum up the equipment, so they can’t be recycled at typical facilities. 

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