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What's in the Bag? Another Point of View




What's in the Bag? Another Point of View

Rummaging through some materials that came back with me from 
a trip out west made last year, I found a PE sack from Dinosaur 
National Monument. The bag poses the question directly, "What's 
in the Bag?" and answers with the following:

The familiar question, "paper or plastic?" has generated a great 
deal of discussion. Of greatest importance to us is, "Which type of 
bag is least harmful to the environment?" There are a number of 
pros and cons to each material. We have struggled with the issue, 
and have chosen plastic bags based on the following data:

* A plastic bag requires up to 40% less energy to produce than an 
equivalent of paper,
* Plastic bags contribute up to 80% less solid waste than paper,
* Plastic bag production creates up to 73% less total atmospheric 
emissions than paper, and
* Plastic bag production releases up to 90% fewer waterborne 
wastes than paper.

(Statistics provided by the Council for Solid Waste Solutions, 
Washington, DC)

It's also true, however, that plastic bags are made from a non-
renewable resource -- petroleum. If plastic bags are discarded as 
litter they are unsightly, they do not readily decompose, and they 
can pose a threat to wildlife such as birds and marine creatures.

Plastic and paper bags are not the solution -- they are both what 
many still consider to be an acceptable compromise. It is within 
our power, however, to refuse a bag at the check-out counter!

A truly accurate life cycle assessment of the costs for all 
petroleum products gets pretty hairy when you factor in the military 
cost (and the human cost) of maintaining the flow of petroleum from 
the Middle East to North America. It reminds me of a political 
cartoon that has a bloated Uncle Sam connected via an 
intravenous tube to oil wells in the Middle East. Pinned to Uncle 
Sam's chest is a card that says "Addict!" It's a powerful image that 
speaks a powerful and disturbing truth.

Make it a GREAT day and a WONDERFUL week all!


Doug Kievit-Kylar, Pollution Prevention Planner
Vermont Agency of Natural Resources
Environmental Assistance Division
103 South Main Street
Waterbury   VT   05671-0411
phone: (802) 241-3628
FAX: (802) 241-3273
e-mail: Doug.Kievit-Kylar@anrmail.anr.state.vt.us
"Smart people solve problems. Geniuses prevent them."
-- The wisdom of Albert Einstein --