According to information from an article provided by NPR (USA), the improper use of cloth and paper bags will cause more environmental pollution than using plastic bags. Although it seems hard to believe, many scientific studies Studies have shown that the use of cloth and paper bags is not only unlikely to be the solution, but can also increase the risk of pollution.
Nowadays, almost everyone knows the harmful effects of plastic bags. They are difficult or even impossible to decompose, clog drains, increase litter and in many cases accidentally kill wildlife when they are ingested. Aware of this, 240 cities and counties in the US have passed legislation banning or taxing plastic bags since 2007.
However, NPR said that these barriers cause even greater damage to the environment.
Economist Rebecca Taylor at the University of Sydney and her team conducted the study, after the state of California (USA) banned stores from using plastic bags in 2016. The team recorded people in cities in this state use less plastic bags. Specifically, the amount of plastic bags is reduced by 20,000 tons per year.
However, there is a problem that although the number of plastic bags used by shops has decreased, people still have the need to use them for garbage disposal or other purposes. Instead of being able to reuse plastic bags like before, Californians then have to spend money to buy garbage bags (made of plastic) to use. As a result, sales of small plastic bags increased by 120% after the ban.
Ms. Taylor noted that garbage bags are thicker and more plastic than the plastic bags used in supermarkets or shops.
“So about 30% of the plastic bags that were eliminated by the ban are still coming back in an even thicker form, which is trash bags,” the economist explained.
According to Ms. Taylor, in cities that ban the use of plastic bags, the number of paper bags has also skyrocketed. This makes paper waste also increase by an estimated 40,000 tons per year.
While biodegradable, the production of paper bags requires a lot of wood, water, chemicals, fuel and operating heavy machinery. Along with the increase in the number of plastic bags for garbage, the increased use of paper bags can even increase the greenhouse effect, Ms. Taylor emphasized.
Although paper bags decompose faster, their production creates a large amount of waste
In addition, NPR argues that using cloth bags instead is not necessarily good.
A 2011 study by the British government found that instead of using a plastic bag for a single purchase, a person must reuse a cloth bag 131 times to achieve an effect that helps improve the environment.
The Danish government also recently published a study, showing that using cloth bags is worse when taking into account environmental impacts such as the greenhouse effect, wastewater and air pollution.
Therefore, according to this study, the most environmentally friendly thing is to reuse plastic bags received at the supermarket as many times as possible. Reusable bags should be made from polyester or polypropylene.
In terms of policy, economist Taylor thinks that introducing a plastic bag fee is more reasonable than banning it outright. According to her, this fee can help encourage people to reuse plastic bags many times.