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May 19
2014 年 5 月 19日

從生命周期看環保

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現代人環保意識抬頭,如果讓人在紙袋與塑膠袋之間做個選擇,即使是用可生物降解(bio recyclable)的環保塑膠袋,一般人很可能希望選擇紙袋或布袋,甚至兩者都不用,自備可以重複使用的環保袋。

近期《時代》雜誌上刊載一篇有關塑膠袋的文章,指出一位從事環保的科學家受聘於一家塑膠袋製造商,追蹤塑膠袋的使用對環境汙染的影響。據報導,美國人每年要使用1000億個可生物降解的薄塑膠袋,其中不少最終纏繞在樹枝上,或丟棄在公路旁,有礙觀瞻。為此,美國許多城市通過法令,禁止使用塑膠袋。

然而,你也許有所不知,紙袋雖然較易回收,卻需要使用較多能源製造與運送;至於可以反覆使用的布袋,則需要更多能源。

據研究,一個普通的布袋必須重複使用至少一百餘次,才會比使用塑膠袋更環保。也就是說,使用塑膠袋並非如許多人想的那麼糟糕,使用環保袋也未必如許多人想的那麼環保(除非反覆使用多年)。取捨之間,決定於「做何用途」以及「使用有多頻繁」。

這就是生命周期的概念:再便宜的皮鞋、衣服,如果只使用一、兩次,還是一點都不經濟、環保。所以,切記別在大拍賣時瘋狂採購不常使用的物品,因為那必定浪費又不環保。

註:本文曾載於聯合報(2014年5月4日)。

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.

Note:
This article was originally published in Chinese in the United Daily News (4 May, 2014).

May 19, 2014

 

 

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