Life
Cycle Assessment (LCA or also known as Life Cycle Analysis) is a way or form to
assess, evaluate and interpret environmental impacts associated with all the
stages of a product’s life from raw material procurement through manufacturing,
distribution, consumer use, and post-consumer use.

I. Life Cycle Analysis of Paper Bags

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 Wood from trees is the raw material used in
papermaking and the major source for paper bags. There are different kinds of
paper bags like Standard brown paper bags that are made from kraft paper and
Tote-style paper bags that is often used by department stores or as gift bags,
can be made from any kind of paper, and come in any color. As mentioned by M.
McDaniels (2007) in his study, in most cases, paper grocery bags are made from
recycled paper, which is gathered and processed in a recycling paper mill. In
rare cases, the paper is created from fresh paper pulp, which is essentially
thin shavings of wood from trees. This pulp is put through various mechanical
and chemical processes to achieve a certain color and weight of paper. The
paper has to be debarked, de-inked and cleaned numerous times to achieve a
quality and professional look. After that, the prepared pulp is put into the
paper-making machine. This machine resembles a traditional printer in a sense,
but instead of printing ink, it rolls out blank sheets of paper that are made
by compressing the pulp into thin and long slices. Various sizes of drums and
different levels of chemicals and pulp material produce different types of
paper sheets. The sheets are rolled up and cut into manageable sizes before
being prepared for final assembly or cutting. It was then being distributed to
the consumers and as stated by Time Op-Ed (2013), the average consumer uses 500
bags a year, about 80 percent plastic and 20 percent paper. According to
Rainbow (2017), most people nowadays prefer using paper bags because they are
easy to carry, neat and can hold lot of items. Paper bags are usually made from
wood. So, these bags can be produced into a new paper like newspapers,
magazines or books. Rainbow (2017) also stated thst waste papers are also
biodegradable so they can be easily degenerate and do not pile up on dump
sites.

II. Life Cycle Analysis of Plastic Bags

Daily
Mail Reporter (2008) indicated that the five trillion carrier bags produced
each year start life as crude oil. Demand is so high that 0.2% of the world’s
oil is used to make them – about 60 million barrels. A. Ruban (2012) revealed
that the main component for synthetic bags is ethylene, a by-product of oil,
coal or gas refining. The polymerization reaction transforms ethylene into
polyethylene, a strong, light, rigid plastic also used in food containers, milk
bottles and pipes. Most plastic bags are made from HDPE, or high density polyethylene
It was being heated, stretched and cooled to make bags. The bags are being
handed out in to the different parts of the world and only being used for a few
minutes then being discarded. According to the plastics industry, 150,000
plastic bags fit on two pallets. The same number of paper bags would fill a
40ft truck. Plastic is also very strong. Supermarket bags can hold at least
22lb of shopping. Some hold twice that. Every year, each person consume 216
plastics and an estimated of 500 billion are being used around the globe each
year. It is commonly use for shopping and being thrown for an average of 20
minutes. You can see snagged plastic bags in the branches of trees, some end up
floating through our rivers and creeks until they find their way to the sea.
Plastic bags are four times as much energy is used to produce them and 85 times
as much to recycle them and scientists estimate they take 400 to 1,000 years to
vanish, the US. Environmental Protection Agency says.

III. Conclusion

In
terms of raw material, paper bags are much better to use since it is renewable,
recyclable and biodegradble unlike plastic bags, it takes thousand of years to
materialize it on a natural process and it takes an amount of heat, ultraviolet
light or mechanical stress or water in order to break down. In terms of
environmental impact, paper bags are much safer since it is made of wood from
trees while plastic bags main component is HDPE or High Density Polyethylene
and the notorious for ending up in our waterways that lead to our oceans.
Plastic bags are cheaper than paper bags, but may be worse for the environment.

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