Can all paper bags be recycled?

Paper bags are increasingly seen as an environmentally friendly means of packaging – they are made from trees, they can be readily recycled and they can even be composted. However, not all bags are equal. We take a look at which kinds of paper carrier bags can be recycled and which composted, as well as finding out how to do it.Rajapack Paper bag

Can all paper bags be recycled?

Pretty much all paper carrier bags can be recycled because they are, well, made of paper. This can either be bio-degraded or can be pulped and turned into new paper carrier bags.

Increasingly, people are questioning “are plastic bags are recyclable?“. Many people are turning away from plastic bags in search for an environmentally-friendly alternative. But are paper bags environmentally friendly?

Yes, these bags are extremely environmentally friendly. Paper can be easily recycled, so long as it is free from things such as plastic coatings, ink and other contaminants. If it is unadulterated from its original form, then they can usually be recycled.

So how can brown paper bags be recycled?

Brown paper bags

Such bags can be recycled in many ways. ‘Recycling’ of paper covers many things. From being pulped and turned into new bags to shredding for use as filler in other packaging products. It can also involve being turned into cardboard, or it can even mean being composted or bio-degraded.

In this article we shall find out all you need to know about recycling paper carrier bags.

Are paper bags compostable?

Most paper sacks and bags are compostable. Composting is a very important part of the recycling paradigm. Unfortunately, not everything can easily be collected and returned to a processing plant to be pulped and made into new paper.

So are brown paper bags compostable? Basic, unadulterated brown paper can be composted and this offers an energy efficient way to extract environmental value from used bags. Using a mixture of both brown and green materials are important. Plain brown paper, cardboard and dead leaves in combination with grass clippings and kitchen waste, are perfect ingredients to fuel composting. This can then be spread on your garden or allotment.

Are greaseproof paper bags recyclable and can you compost paper bags that have a grease proof coating? In short, yes they are recyclable and, in fact, they can also be composted as well as recycled, so long as they are treated with organic waxes.

Those bags that are plastic lined or treated with other chemicals are not so easy to recycle or to compost. Plastic – particularly polythene – can be recycled. However when attached to paper to line or coat a bag, separating the paper and the plastic is a problem. While both can be recycled, they are recycled in very different ways so have to be treated separately.

How to recycle paper bag

Plain brown paper carrier bags with folded handles

Bags like this  – that are made only from paper – can be recycled, reused or composted

Are paper bags sustainable? Since they are recyclable and/or compostable, these bags are highly sustainable, as they can be reused in numerous ways.

Are paper bags recyclable? Yes they are. Recycling bags made from paper depends on how you wish to use them. As we have seen, they can be composted or pulped, or they can be repurposed or reused, both as bags or for other projects.

To recycle paper containers into paper, the bags must be shredded, boiled and turned back into paper pulp. This can then be pressed to remove water and to bond it together and rolled out into new sheets of paper. This can then be used to make new bags and other paper goods – or used more thickly to make cardboard.

Recycle

To recycle bags that have been ‘waxed’ is slightly more complex. These types of paper are considered in the recycling business as mixed paper and are not usually recycled – and so they have to be composted.

Organic wax such as soya bean wax can be digested by the worms and microbes in a composting process. However some other waxed papers are also treated with petroleum-derived additives which can be poisonous to microbes and worms. Unless you look deeply into the exact nature of the waxing on a particular bit of paper it is hard to know for sure if it can be used.

That said, as part of mixed organic waste going to compost, most waxed paper doesn’t in reasonable quantities cause problems.

Plastic coated bags or packaging used for milk or juice cartons are also mixed materials, but these can be recycled.

Bags that feature handles made of a material other than that of the bag can also be problematic to recycle. Although, so long as they are bio-degradable handles made of card or string – attached with organic glue – these bags can be composted.

How to compost paper bags

How to compost paper bags

Composting is becoming an increasingly popular way of dealing with many household goods – particularly food and other organic waste. And these bags, as we have seen, if they are the right kind of paper, can be readily composted.

So how do you compost these bags? On a domestic scale, you simply need a compost bin in your garden, you can buy or build a compost bin. Just fill the bottom with garden waste such as soil, leaves and grass cuttings, then start to add your compostable waste. Did you know that kitchen scraps are ideal! Then as the worms and microbes in the bin start to digest it you can start to add other material such as paper and card. Not too many as it take the creatures in the bin a while to digest, but digest they will.

This will leave you with a lovely rich soil additive that you can use to help fertilise your garden – to grow vegetables. And the scraps of which you can put back in the compost bin to help digest more paper.

How to reuse paper bags

Large capacity strong paper bags

Large industrial paper sacks can also be reused and up-cycled

The other way to recycle paper sacks is to reuse them. Grocery shopping bags can be used more than once, assuming they haven’t been torn or damaged or been spilt on. Other forms of paper sacks and bags used in industry settings can also be reused – not least as rubbish bags.

Ultimately, paper containers can also be used to collect organic waste waiting to be added to the compost bin or taken away by the local authorities to be recycled.

Paper sacks can also be used as packing material to protect delicate items or used to line all manner of pet trays and other things around the home.


Guide: How a paper carrier bag is made

Find out how>>


Want to know more about the wide range of paper sacks and bags?

For additional advice on environmentally friendly paper products that meet all your packaging and gifting needs. Our Packaging Experts are here to help you find the right solutions and arrange next day delivery. Simply call us on 0800 542 44 28 or visit www.rajapack.co.uk.

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About RAJA UK

With over 50 years packaging experience, more than 4,000 products and a team of in-house experts on-hand to help you find the right solution, it’s no surprise that RAJA is Europe’s No.1 packaging supplier. From cardboard boxes, bubble wrap and packaging tape to gift bags, magnetic labels and warehouse racking, get everything you need, delivered next day. So whether you want to protect products in transit, store them in your warehouse or package them for sale, make RAJA your No.1 choice.

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