There was once a time when you couldn’t go to a store and not walk out with a brown paper bag of some sort. They were the standard grocery bags, used to pack meats at the deli, and everything else. In the last few decades, they started disappearing. That’s because plastic bags became dominant in the 70s as a proposed solution to the deforestation that paper products were causing.
However, we’re starting to see those classic brown paper bags pop up again, and coincidentally, they’re being heralded as the solution to all the pollution that plastic bags have caused. There are many other sustainable products that are coming back style, such as custom tissue paper.
Why is that?
Production Methods Have Changed
First and foremost, the problems associated with the paper bags of the past have been eliminated. Like a lot of things, companies weren’t focused on sustainability when they were making paper bags throughout the early 20th century. Paper bags heavily contributed to deforestation, and that was seen as one of the big ecological problems of the time.
Modern paper bags solve that problem in one of three ways.
Trees are still used by some companies. However, they’re used in a more intelligent manner. Trees are grown specifically to be used for paper products in specific areas, they’re cut down and used to their maximum potential, and then new trees are planted. This allows for more sustainable paper products to be made, and the environmental impact is minimal.
Then, there’s the use of hemp. Hemp can be used to make a vast variety of products, and it happens to make strong paper bags. It grows quickly, doesn’t take up much space, and it’s good for the soil when it’s used in a crop rotation. However, there are concerns for the amount of water it takes, but there are ways to minimize its impact in that regard, too.
Finally, the most advanced method for making paper bags is to use seaweed. Our oceans are under attack by invasive seaweed species that destroy reefs and impact everything from aquatic species to local economies. By using that seaweed to make paper bags, that threat is removed. So, not only do these paper bags not harm the environment, but they actually have a positive impact as well.
Plastic Isn’t What it was Hyped Up to Be
Plastic bags were hyped up as a cheaper, more durable, and more eco-friendly alternative to paper bags. Knowing what we do now, that probably sounds insane. However, it was a genuine thought in the 50s, and by the time they were in nearly every grocery store in the 70s, plastic bags were considered an amazing invention capable of saving the planet.
Obviously, that’s not the case, though.
Plastic bags hang around in the environment for hundreds of years, are difficult to recycle, end up in our oceans, rivers, and lakes, suffocate wildlife, and create tons of emissions when they’re manufactured.
Now that paper bags have been reinvented in a more sustainable way, plastic just doesn’t make sense.