Dear Ortigas: Your paper bag campaign isn’t really a great idea.

Stores around Ortigas has recently adopted the city’s resolution to use paper bags instead of plastic, in an attempt to make Pasig more environment-friendly. Seems sensible, right? Everybody knows that biodegradable paper is better than nonbiodegradable plastic.

paper bag

The sight of brown paper bags is indeed somewhat prettier and more charming compared to plastic bags. Thing is, the Pasig campaign pushes on the use of paper bags exclusively; consumers does not have the option to choose if they prefer paper or plastic.

This becomes problematic if:

  • The object that should go in the bag is too heavy for paper. Plastic bags tend to be sturdier than paper bags of the same size.
  • Said object is moist and requires a waterproof package.

Individual paper bags also tend to be so much thicker than plastic bags, hence consuming more space (both when stored and when it gets into a trash bin later), and heavier.

The ordinance also seems to have paid little attention to what should happen to the paper bag once what’s in it has been removed. Do we just throw them away? Could they be collected for recycling? Unlike plastic bags, paper bags could only be reused a number of times before they eventually tear.

But still. Everybody knows that biodegradable paper is more environmentally-friendly than nonbiodegradable plastic, right?

Actually, it isn’t, according to Environmental Impact:

Do you want your groceries in a paper bag or a plastic bag? Well, if the impact on the environment was your concern, then the answer is simple: if you have to pick one of these, pick plastic. That’s because, all in all, using plastic bags impacts the environment much less than using paper ones.

The Composite Environmental Impact Index (the site defines this as “the overall measure of environmental impact” of a given product) of a plastic grocery bag is 6.46 compared to a paper bag’s 77.69.

The production of paper consumes much more resources, and produces much more waste than plastic, even if the recycling is taken into account. Of course, most likely a reusable cotton bag will be better than either, but we need to calculate it’s CEII to be sure.

Ironically, a campaign to make the city more environment-friendly is actually bringing more negative impact to the environment. This goes to show that most lawmakers routinely fail to do their research thoroughly before enacting laws that they think will give them more “pogi” points to the public.

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