Paper Bags vs. Plastic Bags: Which is Better for the Environment?

The Question

"Paper or plastic?"

Years ago, this was a common question asked of customers shopping at grocery stores, supermarkets, and many other retail stores. Now? Four out of five times that a cashier hands you your products, they're contained within a plastic bag1. Still, many retailers wonder which option is better for the environment.

The Facts


No matter what retail industry you're in, if there is a transaction between business and consumer, patrons are going to need something to help them get your products to their homes. Both paper bags and plastic bags do a phenomenal job achieving that goal and, as with nearly all manufactured products, there are environmental factors to consider.

Here at, we sell plastic bags as well as paper bags and, because we know that Going Green is very important to you, we have compiled a summary of the environmental concerns associated with each bag type. The fact is that each has its pros and cons, and no one can give you a concrete answer to the question, "Which type is more eco-friendly?" It is up to you to consider the pros and cons of each before making an educated purchasing decision that you feel will best benefit the environment.

Paper or Plastic?

What happens to these bags when they're disposed of?

This is one of the most important questions to ask, and for paper bags the answer is simple: They decompose naturally over time with no harmful side effects. Plastic bags, meanwhile, go through a process called photodegradation--a process that slowly breaks down plastic, but one that can release toxic particles into soil and waterways4.

The Conclusion

With all of this information now in hand, you can decide which bag type is best for your business. Remember: These are convenient, essential items that both you and your customers need.

I'm sure that some of you are currently thinking, "But aren't reusable bags, ultimately, the most eco-friendly option?" These bags are designed to never be discarded so, in theory, absolutely!

Even these bags have their drawbacks, however, which is further evidence that there are concerns associated with nearly every retail product. Cost is an initial concern, and so are the pesticides used to grow the materials that make up the bags. One also has to wonder how well they will fit into the busy, hectic lifestyle of many Americans. Will you remember to keep them in your vehicle for an impromptu stop at the grocery store? In the rush to get what you need, will you remember to take them in the store with you?

These are just more things to consider as we all try to nurture the environment for the benefit of present and future generations alike. Happy Earth Day, everyone!

Check out the links below to read more about this topic!

1The Washington Post


3Georgia Recycling Coalition

Posted in: Disposables | By Ethan Gibble
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