Shopping Bags

The debate regarding shopping bags and their (mis)use, particularly regarding the relative merits of the two principal “contenders,” plastic and paper, is heated and likely to become more so. In addition, recently a further complexity has been introduced in the form of the reusable fabric bag.

To convey purchases home, plastic shopping bags in 2008 accounted for something like 95 percent of the grocery (supermarket) and convenience store market (up from only 80 percent in 2003, as then estimated by the American Plastics Council) in the United States, meaning an annual consumption of 99 to 100 billion bags. Despite this popularity being based on their convenience, strength, ease of availability, and comparative cheapness (approximately one cent for plastic compared with four cents for paper), plastic shopping ...

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