Paper Vs. Plastic Packaging. Which is More Environmentally Friendly?
May 28, 2019
Conventional wisdom has usually said that paper is the more environmentally friendly packaging material. However, there is more to the debate than you might think.
For years there has been the debate on whether paper packaging is better for the environment than plastic. While the general belief is that paper products are more environmentally friendly because they are made from a renewable source, but the argument that paper is more sustainable than plastic is not so straight forward. Some of these misconceptions are due to not considering the entire life cycle of the bag. It is not a simple case of looking at how bags are being disposed of or how long they take to degrade; other aspects also have an impact on the environment.
While paper comes from trees which are a renewable resource, the process of making paper requires a huge amount of energy. Manufacturing paper products produces 3.5 times more greenhouse gases than producing plastic packaging. Harvesting trees also means that there are fewer trees to absorb greenhouse gases. Producing paper bags uses more than 25 times the amount of water consumed in the manufacturing of plastic bags and produces seven times more solid waste.
Technology has advanced dramatically in the past few years, and the thought of plastics going straight to the landfill is now a thing of the past. For example, Emmerson Packaging has an award-winning product called SmartPack™. The process in which this product is manufactured represents a significant breakthrough in packaging reduction and sustainability. It boasts a #2 recyclable symbol, meaning that millions of packages each year can be diverted from landfills into the recycling stream.
Manufacturing paper bags use 3.4 the amount of energy consumed than plastics. Additionally, it is estimated that the current 145 trucks per year needed to manage plastic bags, will escalate to 1,183 trucks per year to manage paper bags. So, when we debate paper vs. plastics, we need to look at the overall impact on the environment.
While plastic packaging can have a bad reputation, banning them and moving solely to paper products could have other adverse effects. In the end, we need to remember the way we use these products to make the greatest difference, not just the bag itself!
The most important decision you can make is to choose packaging that doesn’t end in landfills when it doesn’t have to and to select biodegradable options when recyclable options don’t exist.