Wednesday, January 19, 2011

"Paper vs. Plastic" – The Grand Debate

By Rob Kaszubowski, CPP - Chainalytics

As a packaging engineer, I am hounded by aunts, third cousins and other long lost relatives at family reunions and gatherings. I am repeatedly asked the timeless question: which is better...paper or plastic bags?

The short answer is easy: neither! Paper and plastic bags each have different components that make them a drain on natural resources and a strain on the environment. When it really comes down to it, each option has its pros and cons. Advocates from each platform will tell you their option is better than the other. It just depends on who’s banging their drum louder that day to make you listen to them.

Both materials are recyclable, but the rate that consumers recycle them is minimal at best. Paper is degradable, whereas plastics take over 1,000 years to decompose. Yet, plastic bags require less energy to produce and recycle. The list goes on and on and teeters back and forth without really steering you to truly believe one is greater than the other.

The grand “Paper vs. Plastic” debate has started to stir again, with California’s recent attempt to ban plastic bags completely. The bill was rejected in Septmeber, as challengers thought the regulation pushed the limits on consumer choice too far. Either way, the push is on for consumers to utilize reusable bags across the country.

The “Paper vs. Plastic” debate brings up a common challenge for most organizations: what are the best materials to use for packaging? With so many factors to consider, such as cost, protection and the environmental impact, it is important to understand the pros and cons of all material options. However, researching and testing a number of different materials can be time consuming and expensive.

The packaging consultants at Chainalytics have extensive knowledge of materials, are experts in evaluating packaging materials and can help your company select the packaging materials that best meet all of your packaging needs. Contact us at .


  1. As long as you understand, and how you use/reuse/recycle them post grocery store, you can make a decision which is best based on your behaviors.

    If you are willing to bring those plastics bags back to the stores that recycle them, probably the best option.

    If not, but you load your newspapers or other recyclables into the paper bags and put them out with your recycling, then that is pretty good too!

  2. Way to hit 2011 with a splash! Excellent article!

  3. I think ech material have one advantage and trouble for natural


In order to maintain the integrity of the blog and its content, all comments are moderated. We work to review and approve comments as quickly as possible, but please do not resubmit your comment if it does not appear right away.