However, the subject of paper bags’ eco-friendliness sparked controversy, with many worried that the environmental gains wouldn’t be enough to justify the losses. So, how eco-friendly is paper packaging really?
Can paper packaging be damaging to the environment?
Paper is certainly not without its own environmental drawbacks. These start with the paper manufacturing process. After the pulping and bleaching stages, some paper mills get rid of their waste product. This waste is a mix of water, alkalis and bleach. It goes directly into the local water supply, endangering aquatic wildlife there.
There’s also the question of how resilient paper is to knocks and scrapes while being used to carry or encase consumer products. Although a paper bag must be reused at least three times to be more eco-friendly than a single-use plastic bag, the UK’s Environment Agency has warned that a paper bag is “unlikely” to be reusable quite that many times in practice, “due to its low durability”.
How the environmental disadvantages of paper could be resolved
When introducing its paper-bag policy, Morrisons announced that their paper bags would be sourced entirely from responsibly-managed forests. This policy hints at one way the climate change impact of lost trees could be offset, as it would be possible for new trees to be grown in their place.
In many responsibly managed forests used by paper manufacturers, the number of trees can even bizarrely increase over time. Many of these companies routinely plant several trees for each one that is cut down.
It’s also worth remembering that paper is easier to recycle than plastic. Once left in a landfill, plastic can take between 400 and 1,000 years to decompose. Of course, paper-recycling facilities are already widespread – enabling consumers to readily recycle paper packaging that may come with the product.
If customers do take up a paper-recycling habit, the environmental benefits can add up immensely over time. It has been estimated that for every ton (907kg) of paper that is recycled, 17 trees, 380 gallons of oil and 4,000 kilowatts of energy are all spared.
How you can further encourage customers to do their bit
It might even be possible for customers to reuse the paper packaging you give them. If this is the case, it’s worth extensively publicising this benefit. This would be especially important for paper bags. Paper bags are immediately reusable but many people could often forget to bring with them on their weekly supermarket trips. This will potentially lead them to buy more bags while at the shop.
There are also advances being made with regards to compostable paper packaging – with some confectioners having switched to chocolate wrappers capable of biodegrading within months of being placed into the ground. Here at Tyler Packaging, we offer compostable paper packaging options for your products. Our compostable paper packaging is durable, offers great branding opportunities whilst looking and feeling premium on the shelf.