in Opinion & Commentary

Plastic ban puts heavy toll on forests

While the cashier was going through my grocery, I overheard her make the following remark:

With the switch to paper grocery bags because plastic bags are now banned in Makati city, there might still be flooding because the demand for paper bags will denude our forests.

The opposing argument may be that paper is easier to recycle and companies can use recycled paper in the production of shopping bags. However, the same argument is valid for plastic as well. Many supermarkets already use degradable and recycled plastic bags. Previously plastic bags could have survived for years and become eye sour in the nature and cause injuries to wildlife. With the degradable bags they would be dissolved in six months.

Furthermore, plastic bags have a better chance of being used again for carrying and keeping household items. Also, they can be used as rubbish bins and many households use their plastic shopping bags for this purpose. Paper bags are less durable and therefore are more likely to be thrown away quickly with no further use.

The problem is that we have limited number of trees and limited land that we can plant trees. If we were to use paper more exclusively we have to cut more trees. In modern world there may be control over how many trees can be cut in a year and governments can require plantation of new trees for every tree cut. But the control of deforestation may be more relaxed in developing countries. People and organisations can start clearing of forests in alarming numbers.

One of the best solutions is that consumers should be encouraged to go for reusable bags. They should bring their reusable bags each time they go to shopping and keep using it for years. This way, we wouldn’t need plastic or paper bags. In many western countries supermarkets are charging for bags in an attempt to force customers to go for reusable bags. In addition, they sell these reusable bags at the counter at a reasonable price that consumers cannot really complain. They do this because they want to help reduce environmental effects and they are forced by governments to reduce the use of shopping bags of any form.

If everyone is a bit more aware of their actions we can reduce unnecessary waste of our resources. For example, we can reduce waste by avoiding printing paper. We can save the documents on our computers instead of printing them. Looking at the internet, we can see that many companies are advocating printing less. For example, cheapautoinsurance.net says “You can save paper by choosing to receive your auto insurance documents electronically. Today, you can even download your proof of car insurance to your mobile devices and it will be accepted by police in many states”.

It is easy to blame company and government policies. However, every individual should do their best to leave a better world for our children. If you don’t like paper bags you can choose to not use them. It is not difficult to carry your own bags each time you go to shopping. This will be a habit in no time when you keep doing it. Be a model citizen and hopefully others will see and follow the good practices.

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