Looking at environmental protection from life-cycle point of view
With heightened awareness of environmental protection, people today most likely choose to use paper or cotton bags, or simply the reusable bags they bring with them, if they have to choose between paper bags and plastic bags, even the bio-degradable plastic bags.
An article in a recent issue of Time magazine reported how a plastic bags' producer hired an environmental scientist to conduct research tracking the impact of plastic bags on the environment. According to the report, 100 billion bio-degradable plastic bags are distributed in the US every year. They litter the highways or end up entangled on trees, becoming an eyesore. Many cities in the US therefore passed laws banning the use of plastic bags in all supermarkets and retail stores.
But there is something you may not know. While paper bags are easier for recycling purposes, they require more energy to produce and transport. So do reusable cotton bags.
According to research, an ordinary cotton bag has to be used again and again more than 100 times before it becomes more environmentally friendly. In other words, using plastic bags is not as bad as most people assume. Reusable bags are not that environmentally friendly (unless they are reused for years). What to choose between the two depends on "for what purpose" and "how often".
This is what we call the life-cycle concept. The same is true with purchases of inexpensive leather shoes or clothes. If they are used once or twice, they are not necessarily inexpensive or environmentally friendly. My advice: don't indulge yourself with impulsive shopping for commodities you don't use on a regular basis because they are on sale. Such shopping sprees are most likely environmentally unfriendly or a waste of money.
This article was originally published in Chinese in the United Daily News (4 May, 2014).
May 19, 2014