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Review of Life Cycle Assessments Comparing Paper and Plastic Products

This report examines life cycle assessments (LCAs) comparing disposable paper and plastic products. It finds that, although the body of existing studies is often used to support the conclusion that low-weight plastic bags generally yield better environmental results than paper bags, this finding: (1) depends on a variety of factors and cannot necessarily be extended to other products where paper can be used as a replacement for plastic, such as cups and plates for food packaging applications; and (2) except in a few studies does not include any consideration of material littering. The few LCA studies that did include some consideration of material littering in the environment showed a clear advantage of paper over plastic for this indicator.

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