The Problem with Polybags and Single-Use Plastics

Single-use plastic bag

Here’s a mind-blowing statistic: One million single-use plastic bags are used across the globe every minute.

Used throughout almost every step in the supply chain, plastic bags are one of the most ubiquitous packaging products of our time. Economical and readily available, they have become a default option to protect goods as they move from the manufacturer to consumer.

You don’t have to go far to see evidence of the problems caused by our over-dependence on plastic bags. The waste hangs in our trees, litters our roadways and pollutes our environment. In its latest State of Plastics report, the UN Environment Program estimates about 13 million tons of plastics leak into our oceans every year, and if the current consumption patterns don’t change, 12 billion tons will fill our landfills and the environment by 2050—that’s 35,000 times as heavy as the Empire State Building.

While options for recycling plastic exist, the EPA estimates that less than 9 percent of all plastic is recycled. After we open a package or finish a takeout meal, most people typically dispose of the plastic bag or container—hence the term “single-use plastics.”

For some, this might not sound like a big deal, but consider the fact that plastic takes more than 400 years to degrade, and in that process, it breaks down into smaller microplastics. These almost microscopic bits of chemical-laden particles are absorbed into dirt, water and have even been found to rain down from the sky in some parts of the world.

Collecting between Hawaii and California is a mass known as the Great Pacific Garbage Patch—the largest accumulation of ocean plastic in the world. Three times the size of France, it poses a threat to wildlife, such as fish or sea turtles that ingest it or become trapped. A recent study detected microplastics in over 72 percent of the amphipods collected from the six deep see trenches around the Pacific Rim and an American explorer found a plastic bag and candy wrappers in 2019 in the Mariana Trench, the deepest point on Earth at nearly seven miles underwater.

Environmental impact of plastic bags

Earth Day 2021:

Restore Our Earth

Earth Day is a great time to identify strategies that reduce the impact of your business on the environment. Held annually on April 22, this year’s Earth Day theme is Restore Our Earth. One way you can do your part in helping restore our planet is by identifying alternatives to polybags, or polyethylene bags, which reduces the landfill waste generated by your business.

Paper-based packaging alternatives not only reduces your non-recyclable waste, it can also appeal to potential customers. A recent study found that two-thirds of North Americans think sustainability is important for brands, with nearly 70 percent of survey respondents indicating that they would pay a premium for recycled products.

With a translucent design, protective properties and renewable sourced ingredients, glassine paper offers an appealing and eco-friendly alternative to plastic packaging. Unlike waxed or poly-coated paper, glassine is fully recyclable and biodegradable, and it can be customized to fit your specific packaging needs—from large envelopes and bags to mini-packets.

Consider these environmental benefits of paper packaging:

  • Unlike plastic bags which are made from petroleum, paper comes from a renewable resource—trees!
  • Uncoated and in its natural form, paper is fully biodegradable, only taking two to six weeks to decompose compared to plastic, which can take up to 400 years to decay.
  • Water-based and vegetable-based inks enhance the biodegradability of paper, limiting the amount of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) discharged into the environment.
  • Paper can be recycled from four to six times before its fibers begin to deteriorate and according to the EPA, have a recycling rate of more than 20 percent—more than double the typical recycling rates of plastic.

At JBM, we’re committed to helping our customers develop more sustainable packaging solutions. Here are three ways we work with you to help improve the environmental footprint of your packaging:

  1. Sourcing: We hold certifications with the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) and the Sustainable Forestry Initiative so you know that the products you receive come from responsibly sourced wood.
  2. Recycled Content: We have multiple options for the percentage of recycled content used in your paper packaging.
  3. Recyclability: We design your packaging for recyclability, avoiding inks and waxes that cannot be recycled and designing adhesives and gums optimized for recyclability.

Our team will work with you to create innovative designs that don’t sacrifice on functionality, protecting your products, while also protecting the environment.

This Earth Day, let’s Restore Our Earth and create a Better World together.