Paper or plastic?

Paper versus plastic
An unscientific MPR survey shows that nearly every customer at Bylerly's chose paper grocery bags over plastic ones.
MPR Photo/Nikki Tundel

Americans use nearly 40 billion grocery bags each year. Only one percent of shoppers rely on reusable cloth or net bags. That means the vast majority of consumers carry their purchases away in paper or plastic bags.

So, which is the better choice: paper or plastic? The answer depends on which criteria you find most important.

It takes four times as much energy to manufacture a paper bag as it does to make a plastic bag. But most plastic bags are made from petroleum, a non-renewable resource.

Paper bags are much easier to recycle than plastic ones. But 14 million trees are cut down each year in the United States to fulfill the demand for paper bags.

Reporter Nikki Tundel talked to both shoppers and researchers to try to get to the bottom of the great supermarket debate.

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