Are paper or plastic bags better for the environment?

Paper bags are still popular in the US, but they stopped being used in UK supermarkets in the 1970s as the plastic was considered a more durable material.

Below I will explain the advantages and disadvantages of paper and plastic bags respectively.

1. Paper bags.

(1) Advantages of paper bags.

① Environmental protection.

Paper bags, after being thrown away as garbage, can be quickly degraded under the natural action of microorganisms, water, oxygen, etc., and decompose into harmless substances. They can be reused.

② Hygienic:

Paper bags do not secrete toxic substances even when heated or exposed to high temperatures during use.

③ Custom:

Can be customized to various sizes and shapes of paper bags.

④ Easy to carry:

It is convenient for people to carry goods.

It is a flowing “advertising bag” with bright colors and a clear expression theme. The printing of corporate logos on the paper bag is conducive to brand promotion and dissemination.

⑤ Print with lamination:

The paper bag can be laminated with film (glossy film or dumb film) and various techniques (hot stamping, screen printing, Embossing & Debossing, etc.) to show the high-grade atmosphere of the paper bag.

(2) Disadvantages of paper bags.

① Waste of forest resources.

The Paper needs to be deforested. Paper bags have a much higher global warming potential (GWP). Paper bag production requires more energy and greenhouse gas emissions and is prone to contribute to global warming.

② Causes air pollution.

The process of manufacturing paper produces higher concentrations of toxic chemicals than the manufacturing of plastics, and the manufacturing process causes atmospheric pollution.

③ Consumption of energy for transportation.

Paper bags are also heavier than plastic and require more energy to transport, thus increasing the carbon footprint.

④ Low durability of paper bags.

Paper bags are not as durable as plastic bags, and the city is less effective and more prone to cracking or tearing, especially when the bag gets wet.

⑤ Service life.

Paper bags last up to 3 times, 1 less than plastic bags (plastic bags last 4 times)

(3)How to reuse paper bags?

Paper bags can be reused or recycled for reprocessing.

①Paper bag reuse.

1) Can be used as a garbage bag

2) Make your own popcorn in the microwave.

 As long as the paper bag isn’t broken, it can always be recycled oh!

How to do it:

-Increase a proper amount of corn kernels in a paper bag, then fold the opening of the bag two to three times, making sure to seal the mouth.

-Place in microwave on high for 2-4 minutes. If you ding too long, the corn kernels will burn up due to over popping.

-Pour into a large bowl after popping and season with butter or salt.

3) To ripen fruit.

Seal unripe fruit (peaches, apples, pears, bananas, avocados, etc.) in a paper bag. The ethylene released by the fruit itself in the closed paper bag helps ripen the fruit.

Although plastic bags can also help the fruit ripen, plastic bags also trap the fruit’s moisture in the bag, which may lead to fruit decay

4) Cleaning windows with paper bags.

Paper bags are cleaner than cloth for cleaning windows. Daily life with newspaper wipes on, convenient and environmentally friendly.

(4) Paper bag recycling.


① Paper Bag Recycling Symbols

Recycling symbols can be found on many of the items we use each day. These symbols help us identify if products can be recycled And if they are made with recycled material.

② Recyclable

This Mobius Loop symbol means the product is capable of being recycled but it is not guaranteed to be accepted by your local It does not mean the product is made from recycled materials.

③ Recycled

The Mobius Loop symbol surrounded by a circle is used to indicate the material is made from recycled paper. The percentage of recycled material is often displayed in the center.

④ Why should we recycle paper bags?

Industrial papermaking has environmental impacts both upstream (where raw materials are obtained and processed) and downstream (the impact of waste disposal).

Forty percent of pulp is made from wood (in most modern mills, only 9-16% of pulp is made from pulp logs; the rest is traditionally burned waste wood). Paper production accounts for about 35 percent of the trees cut down and 1.2 percent of the world economy. Recycling one ton of newsprint saves about one ton of wood while recycling one ton of printing or copy paper saves slightly more than two tons of wood. This is because kraft pulping requires twice as much wood to remove lignin to produce a higher quality fiber than mechanical pulping processes. It makes no sense to relate the tonnage of paper recovered to the number of uncut trees since the size of the trees varies greatly and is a major factor in determining how much paper can be produced from how many trees. In addition, trees dedicated to pulp production account for 16 percent of the world’s pulp production, old-growth forests account for 9 percent, and second, third and more generation forests account for the rest. Most pulp mill operators carry out reforestation to ensure a continuous supply of trees.

⑤ Which paper bags can be recycled?

Recycling of “waxed” paper bags: This type of paper is considered mixed in the recycling business and is not usually recycled, so it must first be composted. The composting process involves separating the wax from the paper on top of the sacks and making pulp from the paper, which is then made into paper.

Matte and shiny films are commonly embraced on top of paper bags and cartons, and matte or shiny films are mixed materials that can also be recycled.

Paper bag handles made of non-paper are not easy to compost and recycle. However, as long as the handles are made of biodegradable cards or string (with organic glue attached), the bags can be composted.

(5)How to recycle paper bags?

Paper bags are recycled into paper, which needs to be shredded, boiled and then turned back into pulp. The pulp is pressed to remove moisture, bonded together, and then spread out into new paper.

Specific process.

① Used or the old paper is mixed with water and chemicals and the paper is broken down.

② The decomposed material is shredded and heated to decompose it into cellulose filaments (an organic plant material), and the resulting mixture is pulp or slurry.

③ The pulp or slurry through a sieve to remove the plastic that may remain in the pulp, and then wash, deink (remove the ink: the share of ink in waste paper raw materials is up to about 2% of the total weight.) ), bleached and mixed with water to make new recycled paper.

④ The new paper that is made can be used to make new paper bags and other paper products or to make thicker cardboard.

(6) How do you compost these bags?

You will need to place just one compost bin in your garden (buy or build a compost bin). Fill the bottom with garden waste (e.g. soil, leaves and grass clippings) and then start adding compostable waste (e.g. kitchen waste). As the worms and microorganisms in the bin begin to digest, you can begin adding other materials (such as paper and card). It will take a while for the organisms in the digestive bin to digest, but not much more than that.

Composting will make a nutrient-rich soil additive that can be used to fertilize fruits and vegetables, for example. You can also keep composting and digest more paper.

2. plastic bags.

Plastic bags are polymeric materials, usually polyethylene products.

(1) Plastic recycling symbols and numbers.

The plastic recycling symbol is a triangle, usually found on the outside of a plastic container or on the bottom of the container (you can see it by turning the bottle around). The small triangular mark at the bottom of the bottle is a sign that the plastic bottle is recyclable.

① Symbol size.

Length: 40mm x Width: 40mm

In the case of extra-large or extra-small packages, the size of the sign can be enlarged or reduced according to this regulation. Sign size selection must be proportional to the size of the package.

② logo color

Should be monochrome printing, generally green printing, such as because of the color used in the packaging pieces to make the logo green appears unclear, can also be used in appropriate contrasting colors.

③Location of the logo

They should be placed in a place where they are easily visible to the consumer and should not obscure the product inside.

④ Number of marks:

Only one mark per package shall be placed on the packaging. Each package shall be marked with only one mark.

⑤The numbers inside the triangle sign.

The number 1 to 7 inside the triangle, each number representing a different material, indicates the material from which the plastic bottle is mainly made.

1)No. 1  (PET)  Polyester

PET material is used to make our normal use of beverage bottles, mineral water bottles, etc. It is heat resistant at 70℃, easily deformed when filled with high-temperature liquid or heated, and will release harmful substances. It is not recommended to reuse beverage and mineral water bottles.

2)No.2  (HDPE) High-Density PolyEthylene

The HDPE material is commonly used for bottles of cooking oil, body wash, and detergent, and feels like wax to the touch. You have to keep them clean each time, so they can be reused.

3)No. 3  (PVC)  Polyvinyl chloride

Because of its low price, PVC is commonly used in daily life, such as water pipes, raincoats, etc. However, PVC is not heat resistant. However, PVC is not heat resistant and will secrete toxic substances when exposed to high temperature and grease, so it should not be heated in use.

4)No.4  (LDPE)  Low-Density Polyethylene (LDPE)

LDPE is used to make a plastic wrap, plastic bags, etc. It will melt when the temperature exceeds 110℃, and the grease will also dissolve the toxic substances inside the plastic wrap, so the plastic wrap should not go into the oven.

5)No.5  (PP)  Polypropylene

PP is used to make soymilk bottles, yogurt bottles, juice bottles, etc. It can withstand high temperatures up to 167°C. It is the only plastic box that can be put into the microwave oven and can be washed and reused again and again.

6)No.6  (PS)  Polystyrene

PS is used to make building materials, toys, stationery, instant noodle dishes and disposable tableware. It can only be used for warm drinks, not for hot food, and not for strong acids (such as orange juice) and alkaline substances, especially not for microwave.

7)No.7  (OTHER)  Other Plastics

Number 7 is in addition to the other 6 above, this plastic material is used to make baby bottles, space cups, etc. and is also controversial plastic material. The theory is that as long as it is converted completely during the manufacturing process, this type of plastic will not release harmful substances.

(2).Number of Years To Breakdown Plastics

In a landfill, PET can take 10 years to degrade and decompose. The MDPI notes that PET can take up to 50 years to fully degrade. This process could occur faster if the plastic is exposed to light. The material recovery facility Mercer Group International notes that most plastics take 200 to 400 years for decomposition.

Other plastics and the years it takes for them to breakdown include:

PS takes 50 years.

HDPE takes 100 years.

LDPE takes 500 years.

PP takes 1000 years.

(3). Advantages of plastic bags.

Lightweight, large-bearing plastic bags are made of polymer materials, common materials are polyethylene PE, PVC PE and polypropylene PO and so on, these materials made of plastic bags light and large-bearing, than the traditional basket, basket more convenient packaging.

① Strong corrosion resistance:

Most of the plastic does not react with acid, alkali, corrosion resistance.

② good toughness:

Plastic bag stretchability, not easy to rupture, sturdy and durable.

③ Easy to use:

Occupies little space, can be carried around, multiple-use, high re-use rate.

④ Low cost: economical.

⑤ Waterproof and dirt-resistant: easy to clean.

(4). Disadvantages of plastic bags.

① The production of plastic bags wastes oil.

②It affects agricultural development.

Plastic bags can change the acidity and alkalinity of the land, affecting the absorption of water and nutrients by crops, resulting in reduced crop yields.

③ Harmful to humans.

Plastic bags that are thrown into the wasteland for recycling carry various impurities and additives that can affect your health. Plastic bags are chemical products, and unscrupulous businesses use toxic plastics such as PVC as food bags, which are bad for human health.

④Threat to the survival of animals.

When an animal uses the residue that is wrapped in a plastic bag, it also eats the plastic bag together. Eat down the plastic bag for a long time in the stomach is difficult to digest, the animal’s stomach is filled with plastic, can not eat the real thing, was starved to death.

⑤ Non-renewable.

Plastic bags are a disposable non-renewable resource, are white pollution and easily pollute the environment.

⑥ Carcinogenic.

When plastics are heated or burned, they produce toxic gases and carcinogens.

⑦ Low recycling value.

The plastic bags themselves are of low value and the recycling process requires a lot of energy.

⑧ Difficulty in biodegradation.

Plastic bags typically take centuries to decompose, but even away from the largest source of plastic waste in the U.S. (about 12 percent of the total), they can create a terrible waste problem.

(5)How to reuse plastic bags?

①Fresh vegetables.

Plastic bags can be reused many times to sort and preserve fresh fruits and vegetables.

②Packing old clothes.

Unwanted old clothes and toys are wrapped in clear plastic bags and placed in the recycling bin for those who need them.

③ Protect car mirrors.

Tying plastic bags around car mirrors will prevent them from frosting up in icy weather.

④ Preserve painting tools.

1) Seal wet paintbrushes with a plastic bag to prevent them from drying out when not used for a short time.

2) Prevent old dried paint from falling into the paint can lid: secure the plastic bag to the opening of the paint can and seal the paint can with the plastic bag before covering the paint can.

⑤ Keep shoes nice and clean.

1) In muddy or dirty conditions, tying your shoes with a plastic bag over your feet will keep them clean and dry.

2) After washing your shoes, put paper, or other filler in a plastic bag and stuff it inside your shoes to help them keep their shape.

⑥ Protect plants

During the frosty season, tying a plastic bag near your plants at night will keep them from freezing. Remove the plastic bag the next morning.

⑦ Creative Crafts.

Plastic bags can be used for a variety of creative crafts, such as:

woven basket

jump rope


flower pots

Crochet plastic yarn

(6)How to recycle plastic bags?

Previously, the disposal of plastic bags is mainly through incineration, landfill, recycling, recycling, composting and the use of degradable plastic and other methods, these methods can be a short solution to the problems caused by plastic bags, but in the long run, will still cause harm to the environment.

The following are more effective methods of recycling plastic bags, but Wepaperbag here or advocate that we try to use plastic bags in moderation, reuse plastic bags, to avoid unnecessary waste.

① Melt regeneration:

Reheat the waste plastic plasticization.

② Thermal cracking:

The selected waste plastic through thermal cracking to produce combustion fuel oil and fuel gas.

③ Energy recovery:

Recovery of the heat generated from the combustion of waste plastics for other uses.

④ Recovery of chemical raw materials:

The chemical decomposition of waste plastics into chemical raw materials is used for recovery, with the addition of polyester ammonia, which can be obtained by hydrolysis of the raw material monomer for synthesis.

(7) Why should we recycle plastic bags?

① Energy savings

Making plastic bags is long and complicated and requires a lot of energy. Recycling plastic bags requires less energy than making them, the process is: shredding the bag, cleaning it, melting it, and remolding it.

Recycling 1 ton of plastic bags saves the equivalent of 5,774 kW/h of electricity!

② Reduce fuel consumption

Plastic bags are made from natural gas or oil, and by recycling plastic bags, we reduce the consumption of non-renewable natural gas and oil.

Recycling 1 ton of plastic bags can save the equivalent of 16.3 barrels of crude oil.

③ Reduce waste

Plastic bags are not biodegradable and will remain in landfills and oceans, which in turn destroy the environment. Therefore, recycling bags will reduce the use of landfills, thus reducing land and water pollution.

④ Reduce greenhouse gases and pollution

Plastic bags contain dangerous chemicals and compounds, including bisphenol A (BPA). When plastic bags are heated, they secrete toxic chemicals, including BPA, and cause nearby water pollution. This causes a variety of health problems in young and old alike.

It takes about 1,000 years for plastic to degrade. Just because plastic bags are disposed of in landfills doesn’t mean they’re gone. Reusing plastic will reduce the use of landfills.

⑤ Government encourages sustainable use.

The government encourages the recycling of plastic bags, places recycling facilities, promotes waste separation and contributes to the sustainable development of the natural environment.

(8) Recyclable and non-recyclable plastic bags.

Recyclable plastic bags can be melted after heating, non-recyclable plastic bags can not be melted after heating, this feature makes thermoplastic plastics can be simply reused, plastic bags recycling is to thermoplastic plastics, such as PVC, PMMA, PS, PA, PE, PP, ABS, POM, PC, PPO, PPS and so on.

Plastics according to their different processing properties can be divided into two categories of thermoplastics and thermoset plastics: thermoset and thermoplastic plastics are similar to the difference between ceramics and glass.

Biodegradable plastics are divided into:

① Photodegradation of plastics:

Mixing photosensitizers into plastics to gradually decompose them under sunlight.

② Biodegradable plastics:

Completely broken down into low molecular compounds by natural microorganisms such as bacteria, molds and algae.

③ Water-degradable plastics:

Water-absorbent substances are added to plastics and can be dissolved in water when discarded after use, mainly used for the destruction and disinfection of medical and sanitary utensils).

Most of the plastic bags you can find on the market today are non-biodegradable thermoplastics (and the ones that are biodegradable won’t be reused!) The recycling can be reused. However, at present, the classification of household waste is unclear (only with recyclable, non-recyclable classification is far from enough), recycling efficiency is low (low cost of raw materials, easy to obtain plastic bags, high cost of recycling) and other factors make the progress of recycling difficult, most of them are mixed with household waste to landfill or incineration disposal.

(9)Recyclable plastic bags

Zip-top food storage bags (clean and dry)

Plastic shipping envelopes (remove labels), bubble wrap and air pillows (deflate)

Plastic cereal box liners (but if it tears like paper, do not include)

Any film packaging or bag that has the How2Recycle Label shown at right

(10)Non-recyclable plastic bags

Degradable/compostable bags or film packaging

Pre-washed salad mix bags

Frozen food bags

Candy bar wrappers

Chip bags

Six-pack rings

Paper bags and plastic bags have their advantages and disadvantages, both in varying degrees will cause energy waste and environmental pollution. It is generally believed that the use of paper bags will be more environmentally friendly, and more beautiful paper bags, to facilitate the spread of brands and promote their own brands.

If you need a paper bag, you can contact us. My name is Judy(, we are a paper bag factory in China, specializing in the production of paper bags of various sizes and processes. I look forward to working with you. 

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