Difference Between Bags


Alternatives to plastic grocery bags exist, and each have different advantages and disadvantages.

The common types of grocery/carrier bags include the following:

  1. How do plastic bags compare to paper bags?

    • Plastic bags may only be used for minutes, but they remain in the landfill for over 100 years
    • Modern landfills are covered, and do not promote conditions with enough oxygen and heat to break-down this garbage
    • When a plastic bag is littered, it becomes a visual nuisance, can block water flow in natural and man-made systems, or harm wildlife.
    • A littered paper bag breaks down more quickly in water, and poses less risk to wildlife compared to a littered plastic bag 
    • Paper bags also pose environmental impacts due to resource consumption (ie. trees!) and the chemical pulping process
    • Ideally, all paper bags would be made from post-consumer recycled products, and then recycled at the end of use.
  2. What about bio-degradable bags – aren’t they sustainable?

    • It is a common misperception that bio-based bags break down readily in the environment
    • If recycled, bio-based bags are often mixed with regular plastic bags and damage recycling equipment and processes
    • Many bio-based bags are designed to break-down when processed in industrial compost facilities (high temperature with controlled oxygen levels)
    • Only with proper labeling, separation and materials, would bio-based plastic bags be a more sustainable option
    • Regardless, a sustainably designed, reusable bag is the best alternative! 
  3. “A Better Bag” – Reusable Shopping Bags

    • A reusable shopping bag used many times has the least environmental impact of all bag types
    • The ideal reusable bag is made from post-consumer recycled products, using the least amount of energy, water,  and chemicals, and then properly recycled or repurposed at the end of life