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Paul W. Smith: Pondering 'paper or plastic?'

Paul W. Smith  |  The Detroit News

“Outta’ My Mind on a Monday Moanin’ ” 

Can I ask you a question ? 

It’s not an earth-shattering (maybe earth-saving?) question. But I’ve gotta know. 

“Paper or plastic?” 

Sometimes I’m so out of it, I don’t totally hear what was said, and I end up saying “Excuse me?” or “I’m sorry?” 

It’s a pretty standard question when you get to the end of the checkout line at the grocery store. 

So back to MY question. 

Is there a right or wrong answer when you’re asked to make the choice between plastic and paper bags to carry your groceries home?

I liked it better when the store just decided. 

I always feel I’m going to give the wrong answer, or judged harshly for picking the “wrong” bag. 

Well, not always. 

Anyway, I would have thought “paper” would be best for the Earth. 

I know how plastic is completely misunderstood, in terms of recycling and sustainability, but even I found these purported facts on the back of a plastic grocery bag interesting. In the words of the bag: “I’m 100% recyclable. I reduce road traffic. One truck can carry 2 million bags like me. Seven trucks are needed to carry 1 million paper sacks. I’m cleaner. Producing me generates fewer pollutants than producing paper bags, 70% less air pollutants and only 2% of the water pollutants.” 

The bag continued: “Making me involves a quarter of the energy used for a paper bag.” Here’s a kicker. The plastic bag points out it actually saves trees. It’s created from plentiful natural gas rather than valuable trees or oil. It finished with, “Join us in protecting our environment. Please RE-USE this bag.” 

A thought provoking bag. 

Paul W. Smith is host of “The Paul W. Smith Show” on WJR-AM (760) from 5:30-9 a.m. Monday-Friday.