Fact Check: Plastic vs paper

Mayor Marian Orr has come out against the idea of a plastic bag ban, something that a few local businesses have already been focusing on, with King Soopers and Loaf ‘N Jug announcing plans to phase out plastic bags by 2025.

Orr published an opinion piece in the Wyoming Tribune Eagle on DATE that was in response to a recent editorial by the newspaper titled, “It’s time to end our dependence on single-use plastic items.” The editorial outlined the environmental impact of the use of plastic bags and ultimately didn’t call for any governmental regulations, but for citizens to be more conscientious, stating, “But we shouldn’t have to be forced into switching to reusable bags. Yes, we know how difficult it can be to remember to take them from the car to the store. But it can be done.”

Orr’s rebuttal against the overall message of the editorial presented a false equivalency between newsprint and single use plastic bags. She stated that if the city were to place a ditions. And landfills, despite the best recycling efforts, are where many of our newspapers and plastic bags co-exist. And a daily newspaper takes up more landfill space than an average family’s weekly single-use grocery bags.”ban on plastic bags, that a ban should also be placed on printed newspapers.

“You might say, well, paper composts and plastic doesn’t,” Orr said in her rebuttal. “True, if given the right elements of air, light, water – but landfills are not ideal to those conShe ended her rebuttal by stating, “But if city hall is going to ban one offender, it should ban all.”

Kelly Wright is the founder and leader of the Wyoming chapter of the Inland Ocean Coalition, in which she educates local youths and residents of the dangers of plastics and microplastics. Wright said that while both plastic bags and newspapers can be recycled and collected by various sources here in town, plastic bags are recycled at a mere 1 percent compared to printed newspapers, which are recycled locally at a rate of 75 percent.

Wright also stated that there’s really no comparing the two; single-use plastic bags and plastic in general can never truly be completely broken down. Even when plastic bags and printed newspapers are thrown into the trash, they break down at different rates: the printed paper taking up to three weeks, while the plastic will be there permanently, Wright said.

Orr also wrote in her editorial that newspaper ink can be harmful to the environment. The ink, Wright said, is made of soy and is biodegradable. On the other hand, all plastic products are created with petroleum, and from 1bagatatime.com, Americans on average throw away 10 plastic bags a week, about 520 bags a year, which is equivalent to driving 60 miles. A bigger picture of this is that the United States on average is throwing away 100 billion plastic bags every year.

Wright did ultimately agree with Orr on one of her points; she said that focusing more on online media and decreasing printed news would be beneficial to the overall problem of waste in America. Wright said she focuses on online and digital media but was very grounded in the fact that plastic bags and printed newspapers aren’t comparable.

When reached for comment about the claims in her column, Orr said, “I believe we must all do our part to conserve resources and protect the planet – but I do not believe a plastic bag ban from city hall is the answer.”

She also said that she’s read where paper bags leave a larger carbon footprint in the paper-making process, but she didn’t give any further feedback on her sources. She also didn’t address her statement that the breakdown process of plastic bags is on par with newspapers

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