For years, China has been the global centre of production for paper products and plastic bag manufacture. In 2010, it produced 48.9 million tons of paper, up from 23.7 million tons in 1999. With this rising output, more and more cities, towns, and villages saw the benefits of producing paper products and the local economy grew accordingly. In 2016, China produced 80.2 million tons of paper – a 16% increase in just five years.
While much of the world has shifted to digital shopping, leading to the death of the physical shop during the last decade, China has seen an increase in online shopping and the ‘singles’ market’, where people buy individual items such as sandwiches, bottled water, and paper bags.
According to the GB Marketing Group, the UK purchased 1.3 billion paper bags in 2016, up from 706 million in 2010. In the US, the market share of paper bags rose from 5% in 2005 to 7.7% in 2015, with the market value rising from $13.7 billion to $17.2 billion. The paper bag market value is projected to hit $23.5 billion in 2021.
Raising Paper Bag Production, Reduce Plastic Waste
Alongside the increased demand for paper products, there has been a rise in the awareness and concern regarding sustainable development and the reduction of single-use plastic. In China, the government has actively encouraged businesses to cut back on plastic as much as they can and encouraged recycling. The government wants to reduce its reliance on fossil fuels and encourage alternative energy sources, such as solar power.
In 2020, China became the first country to ban all single-use plastic, including straws, drink stirrers, and plastic bags. The Chinese government has also pledged to reach 100% renewable energy by 2030.
Cutting back plastic has several advantages. First, it is a much safer alternative to fossil fuels. Second, it helps protect our environment by reducing the amount of plastic entering our oceans and impacting various forms of wildlife. Third, it helps reduce the amount of carbon dioxide released into the atmosphere. Because the manufacturing process of paper bags is sustainable and carbon-neutral, it ensures that the impact on the environment is minimal.
However, the change in consumer behaviour has not been without its challenges. One of the major issues is the increase in the cost of paper bags. While the cost of producing a paper bag is relatively low, the price has now increased to match the demand. This is especially problematic for small businesses that struggle to stay afloat financially. Furthermore, because paper bags are a widely used and valued commodity, there is a risk of shortages if too many businesses close down or reduce their production because of the increased cost. The rise in the price of paper bags is also problematic for countries that import large quantities of paper bags; because of the fluctuating currency exchange rates and increasing cost, these countries may be forced to import more expensive raw materials, which adds to their cost.
Sustainability & Eco-Friendliness
Paper bags are already biodegradable, so they do not pose an excessive threat to our environment. When they are brought to the ends of their life, they decompose into minimal carbon dioxide and water within a few months.
Biodegradable paper bags not only help protect the environment, but they also help reduce landfill waste and the energy used to process waste. According to the International Plastics Institute (IPI), plastic materials and their byproducts occupy 12% of the earth’s landfills and take hundreds of years to decompose. To put this in perspective, if the world’s landfills were to decompose at the same rate as nature, it would take hundreds of millions of years. This is equivalent to the world’s annual energy consumption of approximately 75 million tons of oil.
Paper bags are, therefore, a much better option for both the environment and the economy. Recycle paper bags and you reduce your carbon footprint; buy a reusable bag when you go shopping and you contribute to lowering the burden on our environment. Furthermore, because a single use paper bag can be recycled multiple times, it also reduces the number of new plastic bags entering the environment.
According to the Plastics Industry Association (PIA), the cost of manufacturing and distributing a single use paper bag is approximately 4.8¢. Compare this to the 15¢ that goes into a plastic bag, not including the cost of the packaging materials, the oil to make the plastic, and the landfills where it will eventually decompose. Paper bags, therefore, offer a cost-effective, long-term solution compared to plastic.
Longer Wearable Life
Plastic bags wear out and deteriorate quickly when washed frequently or in dry conditions. Frequent cleanings and short-life cycles make the plastic bags more cost-effective, but also increase the chances of damage. When damaged, the plastic bags become cost-inefficient and, therefore, uneconomic.
Even if the bag is not physically damaged, frequent washing weakens the plastic bag’s hold on its contents, especially for heavy items, and causes the plastic bag to break down. If you are a business owner, you know how essential it is to have a brand that customers can trust. Paper bags are much more durable than their plastic counterparts and, therefore, offer a better value for money.
Higher Food Safety Standards
Since the dawn of time, humans have been placing their trust in other living creatures for the safe and efficient delivery of food. Although we have learnt how to grow and prepare our food safely over the years, there is no denying that trusting nature is still a key element in maintaining a good diet.
In today’s world, food contamination is a major threat, especially since many countries, including the UK, are now experiencing a revival in the gastrointestinal illness (GI) bug. While the NHS rates the dangers of over-eating, alcohol, and smoking as the leading causes of illness, infection from contaminated food is also considered to be a growing problem. As a result, people are now more conscious of what they are eating and the impact of their diet on their health.
Paper bags are a better option when it comes to food safety. After all, they are made from natural plant products and do not contain any synthetic or additive-based materials. This means that they are more environmentally friendly and healthier for your body. Furthermore, because they are not processed using fossil fuels, they provide a more sustainable option for food businesses.
Customers are also placing more value on sustainable products and those that are designed to be recycled. In 2022, 64% of consumers would prefer a product that can be recycled over one that is only designed to be reused once, according to a GB Marketing Group survey. If your product is designed to be recyclable, you can be sure that you will gain a good reputation with your customers. Furthermore, if your product is designed to be biodegradable, you will also gain credibility with the customers since they will believe that your product will not hurt the environment.
What Is The Difference Between A Glass, Paper, And Plastic Bag?
Although they are all considered to be reusable and friendly to the environment, there is a key difference between the three.
A glass bag is made using recycled materials and has a clear plastic end that you can see through, so you know what you are getting. Many businesses use recycled materials to create their glass bagging whilst some use sustainable materials, such as aluminum, instead of plastic.
A paper bag is fully opaque and does not have a very clear plastic end. You cannot determine the contents of a paper bag just by looking through it, but you can certainly feel them while handling the bag. Typically made from wood pulp and chemically treated paper, a paper bag has a very short life cycle and is, therefore, more expensive to buy and maintain. The majority of paper bags are not recycled and end up in landfills. When they decompose, they produce minimal carbon dioxide and water and, therefore, have a minimal environmental impact.