Paper or Plastic?

My own, thank you. I bought my first reusable grocery bags in the 1983. I still have them, and use them too. They are rainbow colored string bags — rainbow in that one’s hot pink, another is teal, and another purple. I also have natural colored ones. Add to that starting collection various canvas and recycled woven plastic and I have a most impressive shopping collection of bags.

When I don’t have a grocery bag with me I have to face the question, the dilemma even, of paper or plastic. I see, and am swayed by, both sides of the argument. Some days I hate that!

Here are the pros and cons of each, from my perspective:



  • they can be strong, meaning many reuses
  • they are moisture-proof, holding moisture in, or out, as appropriate
  • they are reusable for grocery shopping
  • they can be reused for collecting cat litter, or dog poop
  • they have handles to make carrying stuff easier


  • generally requires petroleum for production
  • manufacturing process is polluting
  • doesn’t decompose (quickly)
  • hard to digest (for wildlife)
  • don’t reuse well
  • easily swallowed
  • suffocates kids and pets



  • compost easily
  • don’t suffocate children or pets
  • recyclable
  • ripen fruit
  • reusable for wrapping packages and gifts
  • can have handles to aid carrying


  • manufacturing process is polluting
  • don’t hold moisture, in or out
  • rip easily, usually at the most inconvenient time
  • paper cuts
  • limited number of reuses

What it comes down to for me, when I need a shopping bag is make the decision based on which resource I need. I have now added a mesh grocery bag to my suitcase and have a nylon bag in my car to reduce the number of times I have to make this choice.

The pros of a durable grocery bag include:

  • numerous reuses
  • long lasting
  • hold moisture in or out
  • don’t endanger children or pets
  • handles make them easy to carry
  • expandable so can carry lots of product

Randy has slowly moved more and more toward the no-paper/no-plastic side. I gave him several reusable grocery bags for Christmas several years ago, hoping to influence him and make it easier for him to quit using plastic bags. That didn’t work as well as I would have liked, but over time he has remembered to take the reusable bags into the grocery store with him, and even got a couple of more so he always has enough when he buys groceries.

I think that grocery stores should charge customers for every bag they use, like they do in Europe. When I went to Europe for the first time my sister warned me we’d be charged at the grocery store for not having our own bag. I instantly loved the idea and have hoped since then the US would adopt that same approach. That’s why I bought my string bags back in 1983 — to relive my French shopping experience and to green that portion of my life.

Now I want us to start reusing plastic produce bags to get greener.