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Paper shopping bags - are they as sustainable as presumed?

Paper shopping bags - are they as sustainable as presumed? 

Plastic bags are out, that's no news. At first, they were no longer available for free. Now, they are even completely banned from most supermarkets. The alleged alternative: paper bags. But are these brown bags really as sustainable as they are said to be?

It's 6pm. After a full day at work on your way home, your stomach informs you about his needs and you think "All right, I'll get some groceries real quick". You wait at the checkout at the supermarket around the corner and notice "Ah damnit, about to buy more than I expected, how am I supposed to carry all this stuff?" Plastic bag? Nope, not sustainable. Then it's gonna be a paper bag. A bit more expensive, but at least sustainable".
We don't need to tell you that plastic bags are not a contemporary alternative. That's what the statistics from recent years say - more and more people (at least in Germany) say goodbye to plastic bags. But do you really do the environment a favour by choosing a paper bag?

Der Verbrauch an Plastiktüten sinkt

Paper bags are biodegradable

The big advantage of paper is that it decomposes when it is released into the environment. In contrast to plastic, which never disappears. Even after 500 years - though not it its current form - a plastic bag divides into microplastic particles and still exists. And remains like that on our earth forever. And all that for an actual use barely (on average) 25 minutes!
So: when it comes to environmentally friendly behaviour, we assume that most people prefer paper bags over plastic bags. This is true - but only to a certain extent.

Sad truth: a life cycle assessment of paper bags. 

To make paper halfway stable, some more raw materials have to be included in the in production process. To be precise, it is actually 3 times as much as for a plastic bag: up to twice as much water and energy is consumed compared to disposable plastic bags.

Put it differently: you have to reuse a paper bag at least 3 times to compensate for emission of additional CO2 during production. Only then is it actually more environmentally friendly than a plastic bag.

The crucial point here is - as you might agree - that the durability of a paper bag is rarely as good as a plastic bag, not even speaking of how a paper bag looks like after having used it several times.


The long-term alternative

In the long run, it makes most ecological sense to use a cotton bag that is produced as ecologically as possible. For example, certified by Ökotex.

The production of cotton bags is admittedly also complex, the bag must be used at least 20 times to compensate for CO2 emissions. However, these jute bags are oil-free and are fairly robust which ensures a long life of service. You see, grandma has always been right.

Generally speaking, it trickles down to reusing bags as often as possible, regardless of the material, because "one way is no way". In the long run, the cotton bag is the most sustainable alternative with which you can make your own statement.
If you're still missing the right piece for your sustainable shopping, come and check out our store here!

Jutebeutel sind die Alternativen.  

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