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 PITTSBURGH, March 23 /PRNewswire/ -- Doing the right thing for the environment has never been more important or more confusing. Conventional attitudes toward various packaging materials are changing as new information becomes available and solid waste priorities are redefined.
 The plastic vs. paper bag debate offers a case in point.
 Test your knowledge of the facts in the brief quiz below, using these answers:
 -- a. paper bags;
 -- b. plastic bags;
 -- c. both;
 -- d. neither.
 1. Which can be recycled, paper or plastic bags?
 -- c. Both. Both paper and plastic bags can be recycled, however, plastic bags can be recycled repeatedly into new bags or made into long-lasting products, while the recycling process for paper shortens the fibers and eventually weakens the bag's strength.
 2. Which is biodegradable in a landfill?
 -- d. Neither. No material -- not paper or plastic bags -- degrades significantly in a properly maintained landfill. According to Dr. William Rathje, a "garbologist" who has studied landfills across the country, "The notion that paper degrades inside lined landfills is largely a myth. This may be a blessing because if paper did degrade quickly, the result would be an enormous amount of ink and paint that could leach into the ground water."
 3. Which type of bag takes up less space in landfills?
 -- b. Plastic bags. When 1,000 paper and plastic bags are stacked side-by-side, the paper bags stand over 3-1/2 feet tall, compared to plastic bags which are only 3-1/2 inches high. In a landfill, plastic bags take up one-seventh the space of paper bags, according to a study conducted by the environmental consulting firm, Franklin Associates, Inc.
 4. Which bag creates less pollution?
 -- a. Plastic bags. Plastic grocery bags generate 73 percent fewer atmospheric emissions and 90 percent fewer waterborne wastes than paper grocery sacks throughout their lifecycles, from manufacture through recycling or disposal, according to the Franklin study.
 5. Which bag consumes more energy?
 -- a. Paper bags. Paper grocery bags consume 40 percent more energy than plastic grocery bags, according to the Franklin study. While plastics are often associated with crude oil, in fact only 30 percent of the raw materials used to produce plastic bags in North America come from crude oil; 70 percent come from abundant natural gas.
 "Despite its well-accepted advantages for convenience and ease of carrying, the plastic bag initially was viewed to be at a disadvantage environmentally," according to Len Levy, president of the Plastic Bag Association. "Beginning in 1990, however, independent studies by such respected groups as the National Audubon Society, Franklin Associates and the German Office of the Environment found that plastic bags offer a number of important environmental advantages.
 "Our goal is simply to communicate these benefits to consumers who may still have misperceptions regarding the biodegradability, recyclability and overall environmental impact of plastic vs. paper bags."
 If you missed more than two questions, you may consider updating your information on this issue. To receive free facts about plastic bags and the environment, contact the Plastic Bag Information Clearinghouse at 1-800-438-5856.
 -0- 3/23/93
 /NOTE TO EDITORS: Photos, camera-ready charts and interviews available./
 /CONTACT: Nanette Kirsch for Plastic Bag Information Clearinghouse, 1-800-438-5856/

CO: Plastic Bag Association; Plastic Bag Information Clearinghouse ST: Pennsylvania IN: SU:

SM -- NYEFNS6 -- 8460 03/23/93 07:06 EST
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Date:Mar 23, 1993

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