Paper or Plastic

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Welcome to Good Dirt Radio….reporting on positive solutions, taking root.

Paper or plastic?’  The pedestrian question we are all too familiar with.  What is the best answer?  Neither!  Making paper bags require large amounts chemicals, fossil fuels and valuable trees, which play a vital role in balancing our climate.  Plastic bags increase our addiction to petroleum and are wasteful and toxic to nature. says that around 5 trillion plastic bags are made in the world annually and Americans alone toss out almost 100 billion  of them each year. Because they are so cheap to make, it costs far more to recycle them then to make new plastic bags, even with high oil prices.  They poison our landfills and blow, float and sink into every corner of the earth.  Landscapes are littered and our oceans are dangerously clogged with plastic waste, which contaminates and kills countless creatures on land and sea.

But across the nation and around the globe, from India to Ireland, communities are taking this plastic monster apart, bag, by bag.  China expects to save some 37 million barrels of oil a year by banning plastic bags and with San Francisco and New York leading the way, many Americans are weaning themselves from plastic bags, replaced by reusable, recycled fabric bags.

We asked a few anonymous Colorado shoppers for their views.

Anonymous: Well its just a symbol of everything we do, we’re a disposable society, we’re not thinking about future generations.  But every little tiny thing I can do makes me feel like it’s a step forward.  I usually keep some in my car or I just kind of have ‘em by the door.  I never get plastic bags if I can help it, anywhere.

Anonymous:  Oh, that’s a no-brainer. If I’m using plastic bags, I’m creating a demand for petroleum. Kids are dying in the desert to protect our oil supply.  It lasts in the landfills for decades and decades and toxifies the Earth.  And if I use paper bags, I’m cuttin’ down valuable trees which the birds need and the ecosystems need…so why would I wanna use trees?  I just keep a bunch of cotton bags in my car and I just use ‘em over and over.

 Anonymous: It’s a passion of mine, is to reduce waste in as many ways as possible, in every facet of life and so this is a really good place to start, I think. It just needs to be made more of a priority and once you do that, its easy.

While some folks reuse their plastic bags, many stores, small and large, now offer a variety of inexpensive, reusable fabric bags.  Dick Pearson, a large grocery chain-store manager, says his customers welcome the opportunity to change over to fabric bags.

Pearson:   Its been very well received.  Our community uses an awful lot of these canvas bags.  We see them from all over the world, all over the country and of course our local businesses they’ll use their canvas bags too.  They work very well for groceries.

For the small business owner, offering reusable bags to shoppers can be a successful sales strategy. Lou Steele, a family grocery store manager in Durango, Colorado shares his company’s policy, which aims to help customers make the shift.

Steele:  People don’t think about it, we use them so commonly day in and day out and there’s such huge numbers of them.  And they’re just another petro-chemical product that we’re producing that’s ending up in our environment.  And we really want to encourage you to always bring your bags, leave them in your car, just this sort of on-going education ….we need to change our habits!

Pearson:  We know that many of you, meaning our customers, have an increased desire to make a difference with the choices that you make.  Its just a really neat thing to see happening in our community and I think as time goes on you’re gonna see less and less paper and plastic bags around because this is being received so well.

Steele:  As stewards of our environment, we should be leading that fight, not waiting for other people to do it.

Becoming a greener consumer means considering not only what you buy, but how you bring it home.  With shopping of any kind, re-useable bags are an important and easy way to get involved in changing a wasteful habit. For more information about ‘paper or plastic’ and re-useable bags, please visit our website at

Sponsor plug: Change happens… from the bottom up… when millions of people change their minds.  By learning about our options, we can all make smarter choices and get involved in the shift toward sustainability.

I’m Tami Graham and I’m Tom Bartels.  Thanks for joining us on Good Dirt Radio, digging up good news…. for a change.

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