I found a website, reuseit.com, that talks about the environmental costs of using both paper and plastic bags. I was very surprised to see some of the facts about how each kind of bag is manufactured and recycled. For instance, most of the paper used to produce paper bags comes from tree pulp, and with the staggering amount of paper bags that are produced, billions of trees are cut down to produce enough paper to accommodate Americans. This, in turn, will leave less trees to clear the air of greenhouse gases. To actually create the bags produces even more green house gases, making it twice as environmentally unfriendly. In terms of recycling, the site states that it takes 91% less energy to recycle plastic than paper. This makes a small difference when choosing paper or plastic because recycling rates are at 10 to 15% for paper bags and 1 to 3% for plastic bags. Though paper is recycled more than plastic, the rates for both of the bag options are staggeringly low. It is clear that more emphasis should be put on recycling bags, but the way in which we as a community go about it is debatable.
Many people believe that using paper instead of plastic bags is a small contribution to the good of the environment. According to greenchange.org, not using plastic bags cuts down litter, waste, and dependence on foreign oil. Some areas have tried to rid their stores of plastic bags altogether by taking more extreme approaches. For instance, Ireland simply forewent the promoting recycling option and went the more extreme route of putting a tax on plastic bags in 2002. The use of plastic bags dropped by 90 percent in just a few short weeks. However, if America were to put a tax on plastic bags, use of paper bags would most likely rise significantly, and we would still be faced with the dilemma of how to promote recycling paper bags. We as a society need to come up with a better way to promote recycling bags, whether they are paper or plastic.