There has been a significant increase in the number of retailers deciding to make the switch from plastic to paper carrier bags. The effects of widespread single-use plastics have proven to be detrimental to the environment.

The government is aware of this and hence why they are doing what they can to limit the use of plastic within the retail industry ( Read more – “Further Incentives for Retailers to turn to Plastic Alternatives”).

Another reason why a material such as paper would get the nod over plastic is that paper is naturally biodegradable, whereas plastic is not. It is reported that plastic bottles can take at least 100 years to degrade, in addition to plastic carrier bags taking between 10-20 years. We would suggest that even with a degradable additive, 10-20 years would be somewhat of an optimistic approximate timespan for a plastic bag to breakdown.

Many of the issues with plastic packaging are caused by consumer uncertainty regarding what can and cannot be recycled, as well as the lack of provision of recycling services in certain parts of the UK.

The nation need to continue finding ways to improve overall responsibility with plastics. Microplastics are clogging up coastal shorelines, harming sea life and blocking rivers. Thousands of tonnes of plastic sit unrecycled in landfills and it can take hundreds of years for them to breakdown and decompose. The plastics can cause issues for our oceans when they’re broken down into microplastics.

Concerningly, there is an estimated 8 million metric tonnes of plastic floating in our oceans, inclusive of plastic bottles, bags, fishing nets, cotton buds and food packaging.

The case for paper:

Paper bags are sourced from felling trees and it could be argued that there is a considerable environmental impact from this.

However, Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) accreditation does ensure that the paper can be monitored through a chain of custody to validate that the paper is from a sustainable source. [We are pleased to confirm that we do indeed have FSC accreditation].

The manufacture of plastics is also not as resource intensive as paper, as the consumption of energy and water is higher with paper production.

Carbon footprint is arguably higher too with paper bags, as the overall volume (size & weight) for plastic bags would be far less based on the same quantities transported within trucks.

Despite these drawbacks regarding paper, plastic is still perceived to be more harmful than paper and it’s difficult to disagree when you investigate the statistics of the overall effect on our environment & within our oceans.