The future of reusable paper bags


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Plastic pollution is one of the most pressing environmental concerns on the planet. Plastics became popular in the 1950s as a culture of convenience and disposable lifestyles took hold. However, the last few decades have seen a major shift in attitude as the world becomes increasingly aware of the environmental impact of plastic pollution. Governments and agencies around the world are implementing various strategies to reduce our dependence on plastics, with a common approach being to reduce the use of disposable plastic bags in supermarkets.

This has led to the need for innovative alternative bags that are both environmentally friendly and sustainable. While alternatives such as fabric and reusable plastic bags have long been available, there has been room to create a more durable product with exceptional reusability. AB Group Packaging has partnered with BillerudKorsnäs to launch a paper bag made from FibreForm®. The bag will likely help reduce the use of plastic across Europe.

FibreForm: creativity beyond limits

Video Credit: BillerudKorsnäs AB / Shutterstock.com

The need to reduce the use of plastic

Plastic pollution is a concern for all countries, with some regions still maintaining considerably low recycling rates. The National Geographic report found that while efforts are being made to move away from the use of plastic, its production continues to increase, with half of all plastics ever produced having been created in the past 15 years. Statistics reveal the exponential growth in plastic production since its boom in the 1950s, with around 2.3 million tonnes of plastic produced in 1950 and around 448 million tonnes produced in 2015.

The use of plastic has a significant impact on the environment. About 8 million tonnes of plastic waste enters the ocean each year. These plastic objects harm marine life, causing death and injury. It is estimated that up to 700 species of birds and fish, including endangered ones, have been affected by plastic pollution.

Threats from microplastics

The sun, sea and wind begin to break down these plastics, a process that can take hundreds of years, and small particles break off and contaminate the water. These “microplastics” have been found in all corners of the globe and have infiltrated our drinking water, are found in the seafood we eat, and have even been found floating in the air.

Microplastics pose a significant threat to human health, with some experts seeing them as the threat number oneto humanity. Unknowingly, humans are exposed to microplastics in the environment – they ingest them, inhale them, and come into physical contact with them. Studies have shown that exposure to microplastics is toxic, with oxidative stress and inflammation of the body occurring in response to some form of contact with environmental microplastics.

Several diseases have been linked to exposure to microplastics, even low toxicity particles have been shown to induce disease in susceptible populations. A growing body of research supports the link between exposure to microplastics and a range of human cancers.

Given the significant negative impact of plastic pollution on the environment and human health, we must find effective solutions that will reduce the use of single-use plastics. Replacing single-use plastic bags with reusable paper bags can have a significant impact on the universal need for shopping bags.

What are the effects of nanoplastics and microplastics on our environment?

Reusable paper bags by AB Group Packaging and BillerudKorsnäs

BillerudKorsnäs produces one of the strongest kraft papers in the world, called FibreForm®. The company, specializing in creating sustainable packaging materials and solutions, has developed fibrous materials for paper that are strong enough to create a paper bag that can be used repeatedly to carry substantial weights.

AB Group Packaging has partnered with the company to produce reusable paper bags that will potentially make shopping greener, reducing plastic waste and the environmental and health impacts associated with plastic pollution.

Tests have demonstrated the product’s ability to be used repeatedly, with trials showing that a single bag can support the equivalent of 860 lifts carrying 16 kg. Its manufacturers believe it can be reliably used in any weather, with heavy purchase costs, over and over again.

Bags will appear first in the UK, where reusable plastic bags are popular and paper bags are often seen as less environmentally friendly. With manufacturing sites in Ireland, Spain and the UK, AB Group Packaging will likely introduce the bags to other European regions as a result.

The future of reusable bags

It is hoped that this innovation from AB Group Packaging and BillerudKorsnäs will be an important step towards reducing plastic and ensuring a more sustainable future. Researchers hope this will help protect the environment and human health from the damaging effects of plastic pollution.

References and further reading

Microplastic pollution threat number oneto humanity. Thomas Barrett. Online environmental journal. Available at: https://environmentjournal.online/articles/microplastic-pollution-number-one-threat-to-humankind/

Prata, J., 2018. Airborne microplastics: consequences for human health ?. Environmental pollution, 234, p.115-126. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0269749117307686

Prata, J., da Costa, J., Lopes, I., Duarte, A. and Rocha-Santos, T., 2020. Environmental exposure to microplastics: overview of possible effects on human health. Total environmental science, 702, p.134455. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0048969719344468

The reusable paper bag, a better choice for the climate. Billerud Korsnäs. https://www.billerudkorsnas.com/press–news/press-releases/2020/the-reusable-paper-bag-a-better-choice-for-the-climate

The global plastic pollution crisis explained. Laura Parker. National Geographic Available at: https://www.nationalgeographic.com/environment/habitats/plastic-pollution/

Turner, M., Andersen, Z., Baccarelli, A., Diver, W., Gapstur, S., Pope, C., Prada, D., Samet, J., Thurston, G. and Cohen, A., 2020. Outdoor Air Pollution and Cancer: An Overview of Current Evidence and Public Health Recommendations. CA: A Cancer Journal for Clinicians, 398 (5). https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0304389420309833

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Ethel J. Montes

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