When people talk about plastics, they often point fingers at how plastics are difficult to recycle, create a huge waste problem and ultimately leads to a worse environment. Unfortunately, these assumptions are not based on science or facts–it’s just a misconception.
The idea that paper is more environmentally friendly is just complete fiction. It’s a story made up by people that don’t quite understand the manufacturing process or how paper is actually made. It also doesn’t take into consideration how plastic can be reused many many times instead of being single-use like many paper products.
Paper requires cutting down trees
One of the most overlooked facts about paper is that you need to cut down trees in order to make it. Even though forests are replanted as they’re cut down, the resources used to actually create those paper products and the process the wood into paper has a far greater impact on the environment than plastic. Even though it may seem like paper is more widely recycled and environmentally friendly, the truth is that creating paper products is far more detrimental to the environment than creating plastic.
Plastic can be reused more often
Another overlooked fact is the reusability of plastic as opposed to paper. There are dozens of ways to reuse plastic, such as using plastic bags to line waste paper bins or to carry groceries. On the other hand, paper can easily be damaged and torn, and even a bit of water will weaken them and make them virtually unusable again. This means that we actually keep plastic products around for longer, meaning we don’t need to constantly replace them or use new ones as we do for paper products.
Plastic helps to conserve natural resources
A great example of how plastic products actually help to conserve the environment is in the way they’re made. Plastic can be made from ethane, a colorless and odorless gas that can be processed into polythene. This gas is often just burned off when natural gas is refined, meaning that we actually conserve resources using plastic as opposed to using more when creating paper products.
Paper is 5-7 times heavier than plastic
It might not seem like such a huge deal at first, but paper weighing 5 to 7 times more can actually have a significant impact on the resources used to transport and store it. Since it’s heavier, it’s more expensive to transport around the world which leads to more fuel usage that contributes to global warming. The added weight also increases the tonnage of waste that it produces, making it more expensive and difficult to manage.
The common belief that paper is more environmentally friendly than plastic is false. Plastic comes with far more advantages for both consumers and manufacturers and is overall better for the environment than paper. Plastic creates less waste, it can be reused and it’s better for the planet.
Where we need to concentrate is on proper recycling facilities and educating both business and the public as to how to properly dispose of polythene and plastic as well as putting pressure on Councils and Governments to ensure local facilities exist to recycle and reuse these materials.