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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 biodegradable
  • they are reusable and recyclable
  • their raw material is sourced from sustainably managed forests
  • they store carbon dioxide (CO2)

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.

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. Due to their natural compostable characteristics, paper bags degrade in a short period of time (two to five months). Thanks to switching to natural water-based colours and starch-based adhesives, paper bags do not harm the environment.

Paper bags are reusable and recyclable

Thanks to the long, strong virgin cellulose fibres used in paper bags, they have a high mechanical strength. A test method developed by the ITENE Packaging, Transport & Logistics Research Center for evaluating the reusability of paper bags for their original purpose has shown that, regardless of the type of handle, they can withstand endurance tests and be reused several times.1 The paper bags’ long fibres also make them a good source for recycling. On average, the fibres are reused 3.5 times in Europe.2 In general, a cellulose fibre from a paper product can even be recycled up to six times 3 before it is turned into bioenergy or composted at the end of its life cycle. Recycling paper means reducing polluting emissions produced by landfill sites.

Paper bags are sourced from sustainably managed forests

The cellulose fibres that are used as raw material to produce paper bags in Europe are sourced from sustainably managed European forests. They are extracted from tree thinning and from process waste from the sawn timber industry. Thanks to the continuous replanting of trees, Europe has had a positive net change in forest area during the last 25 years. During this period, the forest area has increased by 17.5 million hectares. This corresponds to almost half of the area of Italy.4 Sustainable forest management maintains biodiversity and ecosystems and provides a habitat for wildlife, recreational areas and jobs. Forests have an enormous potential to mitigate climate change.

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 CO2.5 This offsets the fossil CO2 emissions generated annually by Germany.6 Furthermore, as a wood product, paper continues to store carbon throughout its lifetime. This carbon sequestration time is extended when we recycle the paper. Thus, paper bags are effective against climate change.

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

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


“Obtaining a method for evaluating the reusability of paper bags for their original purpose”, ITENE


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


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


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.

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