Celebrating Paper Bag Day This Plastic Free July

Celebrating Paper Bag Day This Plastic Free July

For the planet, paper or plastic is a question of life or death. One chokes oceans, endangers wildlife, and fills landfills without decomposing. The other? Charming, rustic, and biodegradable. In other words, it’s not much of a choice at all. And as we confront the staggering amount of plastic pollution in our environment, the humble paper bag stands as a folksy, brown symbol of sustainability — and a call to action.

So, what better time to recognize Paper Bag Day, which happens July 12, by ditching plastic for this underrated eco-friendly alternative? After all, we’re also not even halfway through Plastic Free July, so let’s double our efforts to make a difference. Single-use plastic packaging is causing catastrophic damage to oceans, species, and even human health. Here are a few ways you can participate — as well as how making the switch benefits everyone.

The History of Paper Bag Day

Paper Bag Day can be traced back to the early 19th century when the first paper bags were invented. In 1852, Pennsylvania teacher Francis Wolle created the first machine to mass-produce paper bags. More than a century later, as people became aware of the negative environmental impact of plastic, sustainable alternatives were sought, including paper bags.

Paper bags are both biodegradable and recyclable, making them a much more sustainable option compared to plastic bags that take hundreds of years to decompose. Let’s put it this way, every single plastic bag ever made, unless burned, still exists today.

On the other hand, paper bags decompose naturally within a few weeks, contributing significantly less to landfill waste. Better still, many paper bags are made from recycled materials, reducing the need for virgin paper and therefore conserving natural resources and forests.

This eventually led to the establishment of Paper Bag Day, meant to promote the use of paper bags as a more environmentally responsible option and to highlight the need to reduce plastic waste.

Key Benefits of Paper Bags

You might think it doesn’t really matter, what you carry your groceries in. But switching to paper bags — and not just for Paper Bag Day on July 12 — truly is the best choice for both the planet and your own wellbeing. Here are a few of the main reasons why:

They biodegrade, unlike plastic: Paper bags break down much faster than plastic — typically only a month or so — compared to plastic bags, which can take as long as 1,000 years to decompose.

They’re recyclable: Paper bags can be easily recycled and turned into new paper products, supporting a circular economy, which is essential for sustainable living.

They’re a sustainable option: Using recycled paper to make paper bags reduces the demand for new paper, conserving trees and reducing deforestation. Plus, paper bags can still be reused.

Other Alternatives to Plastic Bags

If for some reason bagging your groceries in paper just won’t do, there are other, non-paper options that are just as sustainable. So, really, there’s no excuse for continuing to rely on plastic.

Reusable cloth bags: Durable and washable, cloth bags are ideal for grocery shopping and can be reused countless times. They can be made out of used materials or sustainable materials including canvas, burlap, and hemp.

Biodegradable bags: Often made from materials like cornstarch, these bags break down naturally — much like the paper bag does — and are a good alternative for carrying fruit and veg. Some stores have ditched the plastic veggie bags for these biodegradable alternatives.

Cardboard boxes: Who says you need a bag to carry your groceries? Many shops leave cardboard boxes once used for inventory lying around, inviting you to use them to carry your groceries. These are perfect for heavier loads.

Compostable bags: Taking things up a notch, these bags decompose into natural elements that can enhance soil quality when composted properly. You can even use these bags as alternatives to traditional trash bags.

How to Participate in Plastic Free July

If you haven’t taken part in Plastic Free July, obviously doing so now on Paper Bag Day is a perfect way to get involved. But that’s not all you can do — here are some other surefire ways you can make a positive impact this month.

Bring your own cup and straw: Instead of using supplied plastic cups when grabbing a coffee or other favorite drink, bring along your own reusable cup or water bottle to cut down on unnecessary waste.

Switch your detergent: Did you know you don’t have to lug around a big plastic jug of laundry detergent anymore? Instead, tackle laundry day with SaltyLama Eco-friendly Laundry Detergent Sheets. Lightweight and space-saving, these laundry sheets come in compostable, biodegradable packaging. Think of all the loads of laundry done every year — and the plastic jugs that, once emptied, end up in landfills and in our oceans. Made from petrochemicals, these plastics disintegrate into microplastics. These then end up in our water, consumed by animals, and even inside our bodies. Worse, many of the chemicals found in plastics are known to cause health problems, including cancer. The faster we ditch plastic — SaltyLama’s packaging is biodegradable and compostable — the better off we all are.

Get involved locally: Start small by encouraging businesses in your area to offer paper bags and other sustainable packaging options aside from plastic bags. Here is some information for businesses switching to paper bags to get started.

Be an advocate for change: Raise your voice and spread awareness online and elsewhere about the many benefits of paper bags and other eco-friendly alternatives over harmful plastic bags.

And be sure to check out our complete guide to Plastic Free July, so you can be inspired to act and make an impact that lasts long past this month.

The future of paper bags looks promising as more people demand sustainable alternatives. Innovations in the paper industry are also helping to make paper bags even more eco-friendly and efficient. This includes reducing energy and water consumption, minimizing waste, and using eco-friendly chemicals. Plus, there is a growing emphasis on responsible sourcing of raw materials, ensuring that wood pulp comes from responsibly managed forests.

Celebrate Paper Bag Day during Plastic Free July and take a stand against plastic pollution. By choosing paper bags and other sustainable alternatives, we can all contribute to a cleaner, greener planet. Let’s remember every small step can have a meaningful impact. So, let’s embrace the plain, brown paper bag, reduce our waste, and inspire others to join us on this eco-friendly journey toward a world without plastic. Happy Plastic Free July!


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