Thursday, January 15, 2009

New recycling, same as the old recycling

Well the new recycling program is in effect (we're sharing trash and recycling collection with Amesbury now, you know). It appears to be going swimmingly.

Some of the hype was about how now we don't have to sort our recycling.

I have to confess I never did sort my recycling. Didn't know I was supposed to. (I confessed this to Recycling Coordinator Molly Ettenborough, and she chuckled.)

Today, as I drove over the bridge away from and to home twice, I saw a plastic grocery bag in the middle of the road. It obviously had some gross contents because a flock of seagulls (birds, not the band) were trying to get it open for the 'yummy' contents.

Then I remembered a post from a few days ago, by Gordie Young on Flint Expatriates. Genesee County (MI) is contemplating a ban on plastic shopping bags. San Francisco has already done this and Seattle has a fee on all bags and plastic foam food and drink containers.

Those West Coast cities are so rad.

One thing I always try to do is get my groceries in paper bags. Now I understand this is not necessarily a good thing. Those paper bags take up more room in landfills *cough cough* ... sorry the word "landfill" has that effect on me now ... than do plastic bags, but plastic bags never break down.

But wait, I recycle the paper bags!

Then I read that plastic bags are easily recycled (but not by Newburport's recycling facility - at least not before). That means I have to remember to take the bags back to the grocery store and stuff them in that bin by the door.

Sometimes I give them to my sister Helen in Malden and she uses them to scoop Annabelle's poop (Annabelle is the dog, if you didn't figure that out for yourself).

But according to, one is not any better than the other.

Both paper and plastic bags consume large amounts of natural resources and the majority will eventually end up in the landfill. Both bags can be recycled to some extent and can be utilized around the house. We've read several studies comparing the two choices and none of them agree. Some feel plastic is the better overall choice, others paper. It's really tough to say. Paper may consume more resources to produce, however, it is also more recyclable than plastic if you include the fact that paper can be composted and plastic bags cannot.
Hah! So Greenfeet's conclusion is that all of us should take our own reusable bag to the store.

You knew that; I know that. I just never remember to bring them with me (I have several). So I'm still going to choose paper, whenever I need to (or can) make the choice.

But have you noticed that paper bags are flimsier than they used to be? Put more than 6 things in there and the bag rips. Even Trader Joe's bags are less sturdy than they were a few months ago.

I might change my mind. I just don't know how many more used plastic bags I can fit into my trunk.

1 comment:

geewhy said...

To further complicate things, I just read that the plastic bags are also flimsier, so they use less plastic. But that also means they shred more easily, which means more plastic shreds ending up in bad places than the older, sturdier bags ever would have. Arrghhhh! The answer is bringing your own bag, but I always forget.