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THE BAG THAT IS PART OF A SUSTAINABLE FUTURE

For the environment

Paper bags have amazing advantages in terms of environmental friendliness. They work to create a more sustainable world because they …

  • are natural and biodegradablestore carbon dioxide (CO2)
  • have a low climate impact
  • are reusable and recyclable

The environmental symbols created by The Paper Bag help companies demonstrate their environmental responsibility, promote the sustainability credentials of paper bags and share them with consumers.

four symbols renewable, reusable, biodegradable, recyclable

Paper bags are natural and biodegradable

The raw material used in papermaking – cellulose fibre extracted from wood – is a renewable and ever-growing natural resource. It is withdrawn from sustainably managed European forests areas which provide a wealth of natural resources and an enormous potential to mitigate climate change. All constituents from a tree are fully utilised when a tree is harvested – there is no waste. Due to their natural compostable characteristics, paper bags degrade in a short period of time and do not end up in nature or harm any sea life.

infographic showing the usage of wood

Paper bags store CO2

Trees absorb CO2 from the atmosphere and emit oxygen. The average annual sequestration of carbon in European forest biomass reaches 719 million tonnes of CO2.1 This offsets the fossil CO2 emissions generated annually by Germany.2 Furthermore, as a wood product, paper continues to store carbon throughout its lifetime. This carbon sequestration time is extended when we recycle the paper.

1m3 of wood captures 1 t of carbon dioxide while emitting 0.7 t of oxygen
1m3 of wood captures 1 t of carbon dioxide while emitting 0.7 t of oxygen

Paper bags have a low climate impact

Paper bags produced with virgin or recycled fibres have a remarkably low impact on Global Warming Potential compared to Low Density Polyethylene (LDPE) bags (produced with renewable or recycled LDPE). This is the result of a study conducted by the IVL Swedish Environmental Research Institute on the greenhouse gas emissions caused by the production of different paper and plastic bags.3

gree thermometer with world as liquid

Paper bags are reusable and recyclable

Thanks to the long strong cellulose fibres used in paper bags, they have a high mechanical strength. A test method developed by the ITENE Packaging, Transport & Logistics Research Center has shown that, regardless of the type of handle, they can withstand endurance tests and be reused several times.4 The paper bags’ long fibres also make them a good source for recycling. On average, the fibres are reused 3.5 times in Europe.5 In general, a cellulose fibre from a paper product can even be recycled up to six times6 before it is turned into bioenergy or being composted at the end of its life cycle. Recycling paper means reducing polluting emissions produced by landfills.

male hand carrying brown paper bags on a road through a garden or wood

Further information on how paper bags contribute to a more environmentally friendly world can be found in The Green Book.


1

“State of Europe’s Forests 2015”, FOREST EUROPE, 2015

2

According to Clean Energy Wire’s fact sheet “Germany’s greenhouse gas emissions and climate targets, 2016”, Germany produces 9.2 tonnes of CO2 emissions per person per year (including by the energy industries, manufacturing industries and construction, transport, households, agriculture and waste). With 80 million inhabitants, the annual CO2 emissions amount to 736 million tonnes.

3

“A comparative LCA study of various concepts for shopping bags and cement sacks”, IVL Swedish Environmental Research Institute, 2016

4

“Evaluation of physico-mechanical properties of paper bags for use in transporting retail products”, ITENE

6

“The Fiber Cycle Technical Document, Summary Report 2006”, Metafore