Stephen Joseph started the SaveThePlasticBag.com. In April 2007 after San Francisco banned plastic bags he was approached by plastic bag manufacturers who wanted him to help them defeat the bans.
Joseph had assumed the press about plastic bags on the internet was correct. In March 2008 after reading an article published in the London Times he begun researching the subject. He found that most of the information about plastic bags was false and that paper bags were actually much more harmful to the environment. With that knowledge he agreed to represent the plastic bag industry.
His website Save the Plastic Bags.com compares the use of plastic against paper bags. He assesses which is more harmful to the environment including the space that they both take up in landfills. Paper bags fill more than twice the space in landfills than plastic. Paper bags also are the largest source of landfill methane. Plastic bags are not made from oil but from ethane, a waste product of polyethylene. Unused ethane is burned off. Other than ethylene there are no uses for this gas waste because it burns to hot to be used as a fuel. The United States exports polyethylene and does not import it. using this product does not have any impact on the dependence on foreign oil according to Joseph’s site. But according to the American Chemist that’s not exactly the truth. There are a variety of products made from ethane.
The ban on plastic bags though isn’t about using paper bags instead of plastic. The goal is for people to use cloth bags that are reusable thus completely eliminating the waste that fills landfills.
Still if the only choice one has is plastic or paper, plastic may be the better choice for the environment. Reusing those plastic bags makes a larger impact still. Reusing paper bags is not generally a viable option. Plastic bags on the other hand can and are being reused.
In the end there is no question of what is the best for the environment, reusable cloth bags are the best choice. But after reading though Joseph’s site I have to admit that the plastic bag is not as ‘evil’ as I had thought in the past. As long as you reuse or recycle them the overall impact may not be as huge as the media as stated in the past.