Thoughts

Are Washable Paper Bags Also Durable?

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Paper tends not to do very well in water. It’s a bit of a Hollywood myth, perpetuated when characters use newspapers as cover from heavy rain, only for it to stay in one piece and be readable thereafter. In reality, if the rain doesn’t disintegrate the paper, then it certainly wouldn’t be as it was before it was used as a makeshift umbrella.

Similarly, many handwritten notes have been lost to a washing machine cycle, and drink spillages have claimed the odd book. Coasters, generally made from paper fare quite well in moist conditions, until a tidal wave of beverages saturates them into oblivion.

It has stood to reason that paper bags would not be a good alternative to their increasingly environmentally unfriendly plastic counterparts. But as more and more grocery store plastic bags turn up in the oceans, the pressure is mounting to find an eco-friendly replacement to hold our grocery items and fast. With talk of a global plastic bag ban also looming, supermarkets began pushing the use of reusable bags and asking for shoppers to bring their own bags instead of the single use bag at checkout.

As it turns out, when it comes to reusable grocery bags, or reusable bags for any purpose, paper bags are not such a bad idea after all.

An International Problem

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In 2008, it was reported that waste plastic had reached the deepest ocean trench, 6km below the surface, and 1000km from the nearest landmass. Plastic particles in the oceans are a major issue, as small bits of debris, known as microplastics, threaten the underwater ecosystems. In addition, they take thousands of years to break down and decompose, meaning that the problem does not just go away on its own. It’s also a problem that is affecting the world, and not just one single region.

In the United Kingdom, some supermarkets have already begun transitioning away from single-use plastics like grocery bags. Instead, they have been selling reusable grocery bags composed of fabric, netting — and in some cases, heavy paper. The thicker paper has biodegradable properties so that if they are discarded, unlike plastic, they will quickly break down. The main focus, however, is the ability to recycle them—whether that be through usage or waste.

While many supermarkets in the U.S. are following suit, there are companies who are taking it even further. Brands such as Out Of The Woods, are selling reusable bags made from Supernatural PaperTM. The transformed paper acts as more than just grocery bags, although they take their cue from them, but are intended for use across a range of activities with a long useful life.

Out Of The Woods sells a range of vegan-friendly products, meaning that their bags are also animal-free. Despite a texture similar to leather, the bags are made from real paper pulp sourced from responsibly managed forests, and in a process that lessens their environmental impact, by returning over 90% of the water used back safe and cleaned to its original source.

Durable Lightweight Reusable Bags

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It is a common misconception that vegan alternative products are somehow not quite the same as their animal-based counterparts. But with the growth of veganism and animal-free supplies sold by retailers and supermarkets, it stands to reason that they are actually a good alternative especially if it is an improved environmental profile.. For manufacturers, rather than focusing on disposable bags, the future appears to be on their reuse, and so paper bags have been designed to be durable first and foremost. Water-resistant and lightweight, the vegan alternative to bags is “supernatural paper,” and are available right now.

Other Plastic Pollution Problems

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Another major source of micro-plastics pollution in the oceans is plastic bottles used for water and beverages. Not unlike plastic bags, which can be replaced with a fabric tote bag, or a Supernatural Paper from Out Of The Woods, the alternatives are not out of reach. But despite a wide variety of flasks, metal bottles, and reusable cups available, plastic bottles still line the shelves in most grocery stores.

However, whilst plastic bags tend to be for single-use, the bottles used for drinks are not. So, maybe the solution lies not in the bottle, but in the drink itself. Instead of disposing of the bottle after use, maybe it can be reused for other drinks thereafter. For that, the response could be in the water supply of the home.

For many Americans, bottled water is both a necessity in their day to day lives and a luxury. It’s healthy, full of minerals, and the natural filtration that makes spring water clear also ensures that it is refreshing. The taste is usually a real bonus here too. But water can be drawn from all of the taps in the home, so why rely on bottled water instead? Simply put, more gets taken out of spring water, than tap water. Taps emit water from a municipal water source, and usually, there are chemicals such as chlorine that are added to ensure it is clean. But with a build-up of limescale and the effects of time on pipes, potential contaminants can also turn what was safe tap water into something more potentially detrimental to human health. Whilst the department of public health would intervene before it became hazardous, there is still the fact that many just prefer the taste of bottled water over tap.

As a result, if the tap water was filtered in the same way that bottled water was, then people would be more inclined to drink that instead. Labrador Source, which specializes in filtration systems that can be added to a home’s water supply, offers consumers the ability to filter the tap water through a carbon block which removes the added chemicals. They also supply bottled water and use a type of plastic called polycarbonate, which is strong, clear, and most importantly, reusable. Although the bottled water is single-serve, if you have one of their filtration systems installed in the home, you can refill your water bottle with tap water, and know you are helping the environment too.

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