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Grocery stores and restaurants rely on paper bags for produce and bakery items to keep the food properly packaged and fresh for customers.Paper bags are often favored because they provide large weight capacity, versatile aesthetics and brand image benefits for businesses.They are also viewed as a sustainable packaging format, since they are usually recyclable and sometimes biodegradable. However, paper produce and bakery bags can create complications when it comes to following the circular economy. Energy usage, recycling complexities and lesser-known problematic practices used in the production process can contribute to environmental issues.

Fortunately, compostable produce and bakery bag options have helped mitigate these issues.Since they are made from natural materials and completely break down after use, compostable materials can help reduce waste, improve soil and eliminate chemicals in your production process.Learn the pros and cons of using paper produce and bakery bags and how using compostable materials can help overcome sustainability challenges to further improve our environment.

Pro: Large Weight Capacity

Produce and bakery bags need to provide sufficient weight capacity to hold their items without breaking. This is especially important for heavy fruits and vegetables sold by the pound and for dense baked goods sold in large quantities. If the contents are too heavy for the bag, it can burst and lead to consumer frustration.Paper bags have large weight capacity that not only keeps the package from breaking, but to help disperse the weight for easier carrying.Since these bags enable stores and restaurants to easily package more in one bag, they are often favored by businesses.

Con: Increased Energy Usage

While paper produce and bakery bags offer convenience and durability, their popularity can impact the environment through energy usage. Though they are made with sustainable materials, it takes four times as much energy to create a paper bag than a plastic one.  This can increase your environmental footprint and hinder your ability to make truly sustainable packaging.

How Compostable Materials Can Help

Using compostable materials to manufacture product and bakery bags can help improve sustainability and maintain the product performance needed for your bags’ applications.Since they are made from natural resources, compostable materials are able to fully decompose in landfills. This can help reduce energy usage since waste processing is not needed for the materials to decompose. Compostable materials can also be made with many different formulations to help increase durability. Though once limited, compostable materials are becoming more readily available, so you can find materials that provide the durability your application requires.

Pro: Versatile Aesthetics

Another reason paper produce and grocery bags are popular is their ability to include many different aesthetic features.These bags can help increase visual aesthetics by including clear, plastic windows, branded logos and patterns. The bags can also be formulated to include plastic-coated materials; this can be useful if the bag will hold items that are damp or greasy. The plastic will help resist degradation so the bag will perform well despite becoming wet.

Con: Recycling Complexities

While these aesthetic features can add to the bag’s appearance, they may complicate the recycling process. If not all the materials in the bag are recyclable, they will need to be separated into different streams before disposal. If they are not separated properly, the bag cannot be recycled. Plastic windows, printing ink and plastic-coated paper can make it more difficult to recycle a paper bag because not every recycling plant has the capability of separating these features. Additionally, not every paper bag that is created is necessarily recycled. The recovery rate for paper bags is around 50%; this means that a large number of bags are put into landfills each year, increasing greenhouse gases and wasting natural resources that cannot be reused.

How Compostable Materials Can Help

Compostable materials can help you achieve the aesthetic features you want to include in your bags while increasing sustainability. To be fully compostable, all the components of your bag must be BPI-certified as compostable. This will enable you to use natural materials that can all be disposed in the same stream. For example, instead of using plastic windows or plastic-coated paper, compostable options like plant-derived cellophane windows, soy-based ink or beeswax-coated paper can help achieve the same aesthetics in your bags. This can reduce complexities when disposing the bags and ensure that all components will fully break down. When you manufacture compostable produce and bakery bags, you can also help ensure that more bags will be disposed sustainably. The bags can help reduce landfill waste and enable the growth of more natural resources.

Pro: Improved Brand Image

Compared to other packaging formats, paper bags are often viewed as a sustainable option for businesses. By promoting paper produce and bakery bag usage, businesses can achieve a better brand image than using packaging that takes longer to decompose. Some restaurants and grocery stores even offer discounts to customers who opt to reuse paper bags. This can add consumer incentive to making environmentally-friendly choices.

Cons: Lesser-Known Environmental Impact

While paper bags are indeed recyclable and decompose faster than many alternatives, they still can impact the environment. Paper bags can be manufactured with harsh chemicals that can be harmful to the environment. For example, sulfurous acid contained in most paper bags can contribute to air pollution as they break down and release gases. It can also be detrimental to soil, adding contaminants that inhibit plant growth. The process for recycling paper bags requires more energy than it takes to manufacture a paper bag; while recycling the bags can help preserve natural resources, it can contribute to energy waste.

How Compostable Materials Can Help

Manufacturing compostable produce and bakery bags can help solve these issues and further improve your customers’ brand image.By using compostable packaging options, your customers can appear as thought leaders who prioritize sustainability.Since compostable materials contain no harsh chemicals, they can help reduce air and soil pollution. These materials also do not require separation or processing to decompose fully; they can help reduce energy usage in the disposal process.

How Bostik Can Help You

Until recently, no compostable adhesives existed, making it difficult to achieve fully compostable produce and bakery bags. Fortunately, Bostik offers the first-ever, BPI-certified, compostable hot melt adhesive to make 100% compostable packaging a reality. To learn more about how this adhesive can benefit your produce and bakery bags, contact a Bostik representative today.

You can also check out this other relevant content:

4 Need-to-Know Facts About Compostable Packaging

Why is Compostable Packaging One to Watch?

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