One drizzling day, Aling Saling bought half a kilo of rice. It was put in a brown paper bag which the 40-year-old housewife held at the bottom, all 10 fingers at full stretch. But one side of the bag ruptured, too weak to hold even its meagre content. Aling Saling coddled her torn paper bag like a baby to keep what was left of her precious rice from spilling onto the wet pavement. She was torn: should she kneel and pick up her rice one grain at a time or take refuge from the rain and protect what was left?
She walked on, her shoulders hunched over her bag.
Her experience captured the essence of the continuing debate about the plastic ban, which has resulted in the shift to the use of paper bags. Our world today is experiencing an environmental dilemma particularly on the numerous solid wastes around us. This is what pushed the government to implement an ordinance that would ban plastic bags and use paper bags instead.
But did the government thought of the possible environmental effects that this alternative might bring?
Are they positively aware that using paper bags as a replacement for plastic bags could be of much help to mankind and to our environment? The use of plastic bags had been banned for the reason that it clogs sewers and drainage canals that lead to floods and other environmental damage. But, what people do not know is that it comes with a lot of benefits. First, plastic bags are cheap, reusable and can be recycled even when wet and can hold heavy weights compared to paper bags.
Second, they use less energy when it comes to their production and it generates less atmospheric pollution when produced and transported and third, it is more weather friendly compared to paper bags and for it to be made, trees do not need to be cut. These are the main benefits of using plastic bags not only to the environment but also to mankind. Noli Jimenez on his article “Biodegradable Plastic Bags”, believed that plastic bags are a wonder of modern technology because it can be made very hin with minimal raw material and are still strong enough to carry a heavy load of shopping. He also said that no other carry-all container can hold 2,500 times its own weight and stay strong even when wet. Even though a lot of people consider paper as a more eco-friendly option than plastic, some of them do not know that the creation of a plastic bag requires 40% less energy than that of a paper bag. In addition, paper bag production requires 50% more water pollution and 70% more air pollution than plastic bag production.
Furthermore, to make one ton of paper, 17 trees need to be cut and none for plastic; furthermore, a gallon of potable water from public supply is used per paper bag while only one gallon of water is used to make an estimated of 116 to 125 plastic bags. Paper bags do not have handles making it more difficult to carry and are less preferred for reuse because they cannot hold heavy loads and is unrecoverable when wet. Plastic bags, on the other hand have handles that makes it more convenient to reuse and can still be used even when wet, making it more useful and handy.
Carlito Soon, PPIA director and board member of the Packaging Institute of the Philippines, said that a total ban on plastic bags would not solve the problem and will only result to 600,000 employees losing their jobs. On the aforementioned complications on the use of paper bags, it also has its advantages. For instance, it is biodegradable and decomposes easily than plastic bags. It does not clog sewers and is not visible in landfill or waterways.
When one ton of paper bags is reused or recycled, three cubic meters of landfill space is saved and 13-17 trees are spared. On top of that, paper bags do not emit many harmful effects on the environment and to man. Banning plastic bags is not the best solution after all for it can be of great help to our environment and to mankind. We cannot just ignore its benefits and considering the fact that it is eco-friendly in its own ways; therefore, I say that plastic bags should be managed and people should know how to dispose them properly instead of banning it.
In addition, it is the misuse and improper disposal of plastic bags that causes damage to our environment, not the product itself. I have nothing against the government but just to reconsider the usage of plastic bags again. Who knows? Maybe at this point, chemists might be thinking of ways to improve the composition of plastic bags making it more eco-friendly providing less pollution to our environment and less harm to man.