Myths about Plastic Bags: Debunked

Just like everything else in this world, plastic bags too have their fair share of myths going around. And clearly, these misconceptions are the main reason why plastic bags are being demonized across the world today.

Due to this reason, we will be debunking some of the most common myths about plastic bags in this chapter, which will not only change your outlook on plastic bags, but also prove that they are a much better and viable option than the presently ‘popular’ paper bags. So, it’s myth-busting time:

Myth #1: “Paper Bags Are a Much Better Environmental Choice than Plastic Bags”

Plastic bags are 100% recyclable and as far as the impact on environment is concerned, the water emissions, air emissions, and solid waste of paper bags is significantly greater as opposed to plastic bags. Not convinced? Here are some concrete facts about the environmental impact of both types of bags:

  • Paper bags generate 50 times more water pollutants, and 70% more emissions than plastic bags.
  • Plastic bags generate 80% less solid waste than paper bags.
  • Plastic bags use 40% less energy as compared to paper bags.
  • Even paper bags manufactured from recycled fiber utilized more fossil fuels than plastic bags.

As you can see, paper bags are significantly ahead of plastic bags in every environmental impact related aspect. So, how does that make them a better choice than plastic bags? Something to ponder about, isn’t it?

Myth #2: “Plastic Bags Increases America’s Addiction to Oil”

Believe it or not, plastic bags are one of the most energy efficient things to manufacture. According to statistics, less than .05% of a barrel crude oil is used for the manufacturing of plastic bags in the US. On the other hand, 93% to 95% of each barrel is used for heating purposes and fuel.

In fact, most of the plastic bags used in the US are made from natural gas, 85% of them to be exact. And although plastic bags are made from natural gas and crude oil, the overall amount of fossil fuels they consume during their lifetime are significantly lesser than paper bags and compostable plastic.

So, banning or taxing plastic bags will really do nothing to curb America’s oil consumption. After all, it hardly uses a fraction!

Myth #3: “Plastic Bags are the Primary Components of Landfills and Garbage”

This is yet another baseless myth about plastic bags. Paper is the most frequently found item in landfills, and on average, accounts for more than 40% of a landfill’s contents.

When it comes to the primary components of garbage, 95% of all garbage in the Western World is made up of cigarette butts, candy wrappers, and chewing gum wrappers. Plastic bags are responsible for less than 1% of all garbage. Nevertheless, people need to understand the importance of using and disposing all materials properly, as it is the only key to reducing garbage.

Myth #4: ”Plastic Bags Have a Low Recycling Rate, And That Proves Recycling Them Doesn’t Work”

This is not true, recycling plastic bags does work. However, not everybody is aware of the fact that they are 100% recyclable, and neither does every community have access to plastic bag recycling.

The only way to increase these rates is initiating a national plastic bag-recycling program. This would not only make everyone aware of plastic bag recycling, but will also bring the recycling solution to everybody.

Wal-Mart, for example, has an excellent recycling program, where they have recycling bins placed within their stores. The US is in dire need of more programs like these. According to statistics, Wal-Mart reduced plastic bag waste by more than 38% in 2013. Imagine the difference a few more programs and a little awareness could make!

Myth #5: “It Takes Around 1,000 Years for Plastic Bags to Decompose in Landfills”

Almost nothing (food, paper, plastic, etc) decomposes in today’s landfills. That’s because all these products are actually designed to be as dry and stable as possible. According to a research by William Rathje, who is the owner of the Garbage Project, newspapers can be readable and intact even after years in a landfill.