PlasticNews Blog says McNamara propogating plastic bag misconceptions

The blog takes issue with:

Councilman Joe McNamara supports the idea, offering some commonly held misconceptions about plastic bags in the process:

"The plastic bags are petroleum-based and they take up a lot of space in our landfill," he said. "Anything that ultimately saves the landfill will save the taxpayers money."

Attention Toledo taxpapers: don't expect to start saving tons of money on those landfill costs anytime soon.

Read the whole post at:

While they did not say which misconception McNamara was propagating, I did find one site that discusses the advantages of plastic over paper:

Plastic bags have been unfairly attacked as environmental disasters waiting to happen. The following are some common misconceptions about the plastic bag:

1. Plastic bags take more energy to produce than paper bags.
Paper bags use high amounts of wood, petroleum, and coal. They use the equivalent of 550 KJ of wood as feedstock, 500 KJ of petroleum and 350 KJ of coal for process energy. The total amount of energy used by a single paper bag is 1,680 KJ. A single plastic bag uses 495 KJ of natural gas, 120 KJ of petroleum, and 80 KJ of coal. The total amount of energy used by a single plastic bag is 735 KJ. A SINGLE PLASTIC BAG USES 44% OF THE ENERGY USED BY ONE PAPER BAG!

2. Plastic bags produce more atmospheric waste during production than paper bags.
One paper bag produces 2.6 kg of atmospheric waste. One plastic bag produces 0.6 kg of atmospheric waste! As recycling rates for paper increase the atmospheric waste would decrease in the manufacturing process by half but never better than twice the rate of plastics! A SINGLE PLASTIC BAG PRODUCES LESS THAN 25% OF THE ATMOSPERIC WASTE A PAPER BAG PRODUCES!

3. Plastic bags produce more solid waste than paper.

4. Plastic bags produce more waterborne pollutants than paper bags.
Waterborne pollutants are high during the manufacture of paper bags. Waterborne waste consists of pollutants which harm ecosystems. A SINGLE PAPER BAG PRODUCES 1.5g OF WATERBORNE WASTE WHILE A SINGLE PLASTIC BAG ONLY PRODUCES 0.1g!

Through a lifecycle energy analysis, plastic is the better bag. At current recycling rates a plastic bag uses less energy and produces less atmospheric, solid, waterborne waste than a single paper bag. Increasing recycling rates would further the energy preference for plastic bags.

Source: Institute for Life Cycle Environmental Assessment.

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Is that eventually paper will decompose, most of the plastic bags used will be around much longer than paper bags. There are variables since there are three types of plastic bags in use, but it's a bit intellectually dishonest to forget the reality that paper will decompose, most plastics? Won't...

It is ironic that the main reason we went to plastic was to save trees, which did happen, but it appears few thought about the end result of what would happen when plastic bags became the standard.

We don't remember days only moments...

paper releases greenhouse gas :) So paper takes up more space and has high long term effects, it is amazing they don't want to tax paper. Below is a good story on the issue as well as some solutions:

Actually, I love this issue because it shows how our leaders think. Deep down they want to punish behavior they think is bad while not encouraging good behavior. But maybe this is all about money.

I use most of our bags for garbage bags, although there is inevitably a surplus.

The error in your posting is that paper largely doesn't decompose in the large landfills. The environment inside the capped layers quickly turns anaerobic, and paper simply can't break down any further. About the only thing that breaks down completely is iron, which locks up a lot of the oxygen in the landfill via rust (iron oxide).

Landfills are the largest human-related source of methane in the U.S., accounting for 34% of all methane emissions. Methane is generated in landfills and open dumps as waste decomposes under anaerobic (without oxygen) conditions. The amount of methane created depends on the quantity and moisture content of the waste and the design and management practices at the site.

Landfill mining and archaeology commonly unearths newspapers from decades past that are entirely readable.

The problem here yet again is CAPITALISM. We tried to maximize the return on the investment of landfills, and as a consequence, even "biodegradable" stuff doesn't break down, for several reasons. So, our landfill system either has to be RE-processed, or we have to create NEW garbage-processing systems that replace the landfills (albeit using new sites). Reduce, reuse, recycle -- those are still our primary solutions.

if plastic and paper will both remain, then plastic it is since it is less dense.

There are still other considerations. Plastic bags can't be grown again like a paper bag can be. Paper bags are heavier and take more energy per bag to deliver to the point of service.

Mature recycling programs and technologies can render many of our worries obsolete. Again, this is just a point of personal responsibility. We can make our national economy and environment a lot better by recycling ... if we stop being so selfish and embrace the link between personal and social prosperity.

It is a matter of personal responsibility and it's clear given the recycling ratio as well as the attitude that this area is not yet ready to embrace that. Most areas have not done this without some type of a financial punishment attached to it.

The bottom line is every single plastic bag that is thrown away is done so because the person who threw it away did not want to take the time to recycle it or to re-use it. The amount of effort required for them to take a bag full of empty bags with them back to the very store where they got the empty bags appears to be too much for some in our city who would prefer to just toss them in the trash.

Then, what about those of us who reuse some of them? Even reused for litter or doggy droppings they still end up in the landfill. There are plastic bags that decompose yet if the argument against paper is that with some of the landfills paper does not even decompose then that makes it pretty pointless.

We don't remember days only moments...

Pro-plastic bag sites make the claim that nothing will decompose in a landfill, yet that's not agreed upon. Paper bags decompose, they decompose in three months or less, according to the API. If buried under mountains of trash where they are exposed to microorganisms, they decompose faster than if exposed to sunlight.

American Paper Institute which of course would present the other side of the paper versus plastic story. Paper decomposing does create methane, which if you have a landfill designed to collect and use that methane, as we do, then that actually helps add to the viability of that energy system.

We don't remember days only moments...

If this is truly about changing lifestyle and 'going green', then all plastic bags need to be taxed at a rate of $1 or more each to actually change behavior. Otherwise, this is just another tax for which Toledoans should not be burdened with.

I truly wish politicians would start being straight with us.

You will want to listen Wednesday morning to Keith Christman of the AMERICAN. CHEMISTRY COUNCIL when he's on to talk about the proposed tax on plastic bags. 7:30a only on 1370 WSPD. Enjoy.

Here's to the crazy ones, the rebels, the troublemakers, the ones who see things differently -- they're not fond of rules... You can quote them, disagree with them, glorify or vilify them, but the only thing you can't do is ignore them.

Any statement I make is the opinion of me exercising my first amendment right to freedom of speech. Freedom of speech in the United States is protected by the First Amendment to the United States Constitution and is generally permitted.

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