Southern Perspective

The official blog of the Southern Group of State Foresters

Laura Jean McCurdy

It’s in the Bag!

July 12th, 2019
Media Intern
Alabama Forestry Commission

What is brown, biodegradable, and can reduce the number of non-reusable plastic bags? Paper bags!

When you're done shopping shopping, remember to reduce, reuse, and recycle.

On July 12, celebrate National Paper Bag Day by choosing paper over plastic! Use #NationalPaperBagDay on social media with a photo, such as a paper bag with a smiley face or a selfie of you recycling a bag.

The iconic school lunch sack is mostly produced from recycled paper, but in rare cases, it can be made from wood pulp or thin shavings. The paper is gathered and processed in a special recycling paper mill. The paper bag making machines roll, cut, and glue the paper creating the bag shape.

So why are we celebrating a brown sack? Paper bags contain many great qualities; they are reusable and recyclable. Paper bags can handle more weight than their plastic counterparts, so they can carry additional items. The larger carrying volume of the bag means fewer need to be used. They also reduce the risk of suffocation for children and provide a less harsh impact on the environment and animals. On the other hand, paper bags are not waterproof like plastic bags are, but this ties into the biodegradable factor. Plastic bags will not dissolve when water is present which is why millions of the single-use bags are polluting the oceans.

Show you care by choosing paper.
Show you care by choosing paper.
In 1852, Francis Wolle, an American school teacher, invented the first mass production paper bag machine. The machine folded the bags in an envelope style. Roughly 20 years later, Margaret E. Knight earned her title as ‘the mother of the grocery bag’ after designing a paper bag machine that could construct ‘flat-bottomed’ bags. The new form held more groceries than the previous style.

Other inventors have also received recognition for the various styles of the paper bag. In 1883, Charles Stilwell patented a machine that pleated the sides of the bags for easier opening purposes, which was known as S.O.S. or ‘Self-Opening Sack.’ Walter Deubener added  handles to the style of paper bags in 1912. The bags could carry approximately 75 pounds, and nearly one million were sold three years after they were invented.

The United Kingdom’s Jon Marling and the Paper Bag Co. hold the title of creating the world’s largest paper bag. In 2015, the Guinness Book of World Records recorded their paper bag at 73 feet, 9.8 inches long and 50 feet, 6.2 inches wide. Way to go, U.K.!

Since the beginning of the 21st century, grocery stores worldwide use plastic bags as their bag of choice due to the low production cost. However, a new trend towards ‘phasing out lightweight plastic bags’ has arisen, and many stores are returning to the recyclable paper bags. As of July 1, a variety of policies on plastic bags in approximately 68 countries are being enacted, with 31 countries imposing a charge per plastic bag.

Remember to reduce, reuse, and recycle! Using a paper bag is a great way to reduce the plastic waste for the environment and animals. One small change can have a huge impact.


— filed under:
Personal tools