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Paper Bags – The Sustainable Choice

The way we shop has changed drastically in the last decade. These changes include what we buy and how we buy it. Online shopping has undoubtedly revolutionised our purchasing habits, however one of the most profound and prominent changes in shopping trends is the consumer’s growing conscience for being environmentally friendly.

Unless you have been stationed on a distant desert island for the past few years, you will have noticed that there has been a shift in shoppers’ attitude to single-use plastics. One of the most notable shifts has been against the polyethylene plastic shopping bag commonly used by supermarkets.

These simple, everyday items have become an environmental pariah and the introduction of the five pence charge by the government illustrates the intention to phase them out from use for good. And when you look at the environmental credentials, rightly so.

Rarely recycled and taking estimations of around 500 years to decompose, plastic bags often end up in landfill, or worse still, in the open environment. Sir David Attenborough famously highlighted the single-use plastic problem polluting our oceans, moving many people to act and boycott the plastic bag, amongst other single-use plastic products.

This, in turn, has created a bit of a conundrum for shoppers and retailers alike. We still need a way to contain our shopping when we’re out and about. Something that is strong yet easily recycled and sustainable. In steps the paper bag – by no means a new invention – but a simple, tried and tested solution to the single-use plastic bag.

Paper bags have many attractive attributes including some very positive environmental credentials.  The raw material for paper bags, is of course wood, a renewable and sustainable resource. Between 2005 and 2015, European forests grew by an area the size of Switzerland, the equivalent of 1,500 football pitches every day.[1]

Not only this, but the recycling rate for paper and paper packaging is very high. In the EU the recycling rate is 85% and 58% globally. By comparison, the plastics recycling rate globally is just 14%.[2]

Further to this, even if a paper bag is irresponsibly discarded, due to its natural biodegradable characteristics it will have a relatively low impact. On average, paper only takes around two to four weeks to decompose.

Paper bags are sustainable, biodegradable and recyclable, making them the natural choice for the environmentally conscious shopper.

  1. Two Sides analysis of FAO data, 2016
  2. Ellen MacArthur Foundation, The New Plastics Economy: Rethinking the Future of Plastics & Catalysing Action, 2017