Bottles and cans: plastic, tin, aluminum, or glass?
My favorite brewery favors aluminum cans!
When aluminum is available, it is my favorite option. It is lightweight, transports and recycles easily, and end consumers can save cans and sell them by the pound or donate them to charities that sell aluminum to support their operations. Aluminum is almost infinitely recyclable. Tin has many of the same virtues; however, there is a lot less money in selling it to recyclers. Recycling aluminum and tin lessens the need for mining and the environmental destruction that comes with it.
Choose glass only if you choose to reuse the container for another purpose. Glass does recycle well, but it is expensive to haul and to recycle. It is often cheaper to make new glass than it is to recycle old glass. Plus, Lubbock's glass tumbler is broken - our city no longer recycles glass at all.
Plastic - while plastic has the virtues of light weight and recyclability, it has two big flaws. First, plastic degrades with each recycling, so it cannot be recycled over and over like aluminum, tin, and glass can. Second, plastic is almost always a petroleum-based product that comes at a high carbon cost to the environment and increases our country's dependence on others for petroleum. We are seeing more and more plant-based plastics, but these can still be environmentally destructive because they are very water intensive and also divert farmers from growing food crops - which can lead to higher food prices and food shortages.
Bags: Paper or Plastic?
The most obvious answer is neither. The best option avaialable is to take your own reusable bag. It is even worth it to invest a few more dollars in cotton or canvas bags that hold up longer and that tolerate frequent laundering. Stash a few in your car or backpack so that you always have extras for those unexpected shopping trips (or the windfall veggies from your coworker who overplanted this year's garden.)
You will look eco-sexy shopping with bags like these!
Next in line I choose paper. While both are recyclable, the paper bags are also biodegradable and are not petroleum-based. Do not be afraid to reuse either paper or plastic bags on your shopping trips. You may get a funny look from a cashier, but I have never had a cashier refuse to use a shopping bag I brought with me. Just be mindful that a retailer may not be happy to see your Target or Walmart bag in their store.
May your simple steps make great strides!