I miss my paper grocery bag
By Janet Tompkins
That’s right. I’d like to trade that mountain of flimsy plastic for six good strong paper bags. Walking in the grocery with bags full of plastic bags to return to the store’s “recycle” bin, I feel defeated when I walk out with more plastic. So I started comparing the trips when I get paper bags to those other days (which are more usual) when I get plastic.
My average grocery buy of $94 will fit in six good paper bags. But more frequently they are packed in 15 plastic bags with at least three more double-bagged for weight. That is where all the polyethylene bags come from in my storage room. I do this every week.
Paper bags are always recyclable, reusable, compostable and made from renewable resources. Plastic bags litter the landscape in Louisiana, but even if someone left a paper bag out at the picnic site, a few good rains would send it back to the forest from where it came.
In a misguided switch from paper to petroleum-based plastic bags, we now have a product that is less likely to be re-used by the patron or recycled by the industry. Paper bags are four times more often recycled than plastic bags, and paper bags usually contain 40 percent recycled content. Most of the people I see going into Kroger are not returning their plastic bags and the neighborhood Wal-Mart doesn’t even have a spot to return them.
Only 12 percent of plastic waste gets recycled and the rest that goes to landfills will live on for as much as a thousand years. Slow decomposition isn’t the only problem. Plastic absorbs pollutants like PCBs making the long-lived garbage even more dangerous. Some scientists say when this toxic mix ends up in our oceans it can cause cancer and dangerous mutations to those creatures that encounter it. China is the biggest dumper in this regard, but so do other poorer countries.
I know what some of you are thinking: Why don’t I just buy the reusable bags that are required in some metropolitan cities? One study found that 50 percent of the reused bags had bacteria (including E. coli in 12 percent) and 97 percent of people did not wash them ... ever.
The instructions say never to put them in the baby carrier section of the cart while shopping because that is the most bacteria-ridden spot; never use them for another purpose (like gym bags) and don’t keep them in your car because of high heat and increased growth of bacteria. What? Don’t keep them in your car? That would be the only way I would remember to have them with me. (Even then, I might have to walk back out to the car from the store.)
They also suggest that each bag be kept to the same grocery category each time. Produce would always go in the red bag, cleaning supplies in the green one, etc., to prevent cross contamination. The result is people are buying and re-buying their permanent grocery bags. How is that for saving the planet?
I prefer my bacteria-free paper bag. It might even have been made from kraft paper in Campti at the International Paper Mill. Louisiana workers used to make a ton of bags in Hodge, but after the mass exodus to plastic bags, that mill now makes cardboard packaging instead. Thank goodness we kept that mill and all those jobs.
When my forest landowner friends say they need a market for their first thinnings, I think of the paper mill making bags. The production of paper bags also produces 59 percent less greenhouse gas than plastic and uses 33 percent less fossil fuels.
The last time my 4-year-old grandson went to a big zoo, he didn’t get a top or a straw with his frozen drink. You see there’s a campaign against plastic in the concession operations because of the danger to wildlife. A paper bag never hurt a thing. (By the way, didn’t we use to have paper straws?)
Change isn’t always bad, of course. Progress requires change, but sometimes we opt for the lesser value while not improving a thing. I’d really like a comeback for the paper grocery bag. Could I also get handles on the bag? That’s not required of course, but would be nice.
I need some when the tomatoes come in and when I go to pick up some fresh corn. I need some when I want to line the kitchen table for my grandson’s art project and I have stuff to haul to Goodwill.
I’ll continue to look under the counter at the grocery to see what they have for me as I pine for my paper bag. Oh, by the way, I miss my daily newspaper.
(Janet Tompkins retired from the Louisiana Forestry Association in 2016. She was editor of Forests & People for 22 years.)
Article is courtesy of the Louisiana Forestry Association.
The shift away from single-use plastics has been playing out for several years on the global stage.
The State of California banned single-use plastics (2016), the entire country of Kenya banned them (2017), and now Kroger, America's largest grocery chain, has announced a plan to phase out single-use plastic bags.
Reusable bags and yes, even plastic bags for certain applications, have a place in a thoughtful solution, but paper products are quickly becoming a key player in a well rounded plan. As consumer sentiment continues to shift away from single-use plastics, it’s important to know what options are available.
It’s time to start thinking of how this could impact your supply chain in the years to come, and we are here to help. You are just a click or a call away from reaching Ross & Wallace’s industry experts that can help you think through creative solutions.
To start let’s look at some easy, common swaps.
Checkout Bags - swap plastic T-sacks for 1/6 BBL or 1/7 BBL paper SOS Grocery Sacks
Bakery Bags - swap plastic film bread bags or windowed bags for 27” or 24” paper bread bags
CONVENIENCE AND LIQUOR STORES
Checkout Bags - swap plastic T-sacks for 20# Shorty paper SOS Grocery Bags or 1/6 BBL paper SOS Grocery Sacks
Liquor bottles and wine - swap for a paper quart liquor bag
Single units (e.g. a can of soda or beer) - swap for 2# paper SOS Grocery Bags
Single units - (e.g. cookies/ pastries/ donuts) - swap for 2# or 4# white or natural grease resistant paper SOS grocery bags or small paper pinch bottom bags
Multiple units - swap for 12# white SOS Grocery Bags
Checkout bags (to hold pastry boxes) - swap for 1/6 BBL paper SOS Grocery Sacks
Checkout Bags - swap plastic T-sacks for paper pinch bottom pharmacy bags or 6# - 12# paper SOS Grocery Bags
If you would like to see a chart with details on all of the sizes and styles Ross & Wallace manufactures, you can find that here.
In a move to reduce plastic waste headed to landfills, Kroger, the nation’s largest grocery chain, has announced a plan to eliminate plastic bags from its family of stores by 2025.
Kroger currently orders about six billion plastic checkout bags per year. This effort is projected to reduce landfill waste by 123 million pounds annually.
Kroger has almost two dozen different grocery chains, operates 2,800 stores, and serves almost nine million people daily.
“As America’s largest grocer, we recognize we have a responsibility to cut down on unnecessary plastic waste that contributes to litter, harms the environment, and, in some cases, can endanger wildlife.” Rodney McMullen, Kroger’s chairman and CEO.
Our director of business development, Megan Ross Manning, attended the Collision Conference in New Orleans where she was able to hear from experts in the Planet Tech pavilion.
She heard from Orb Media's Chief Journalism Officer, Naja Nielsen, who posed the question, "There is plastic in the oceans, the rivers, and the lakes. Are we drinking plastic too?"
Many of us opt to drink bottled water because it's convenient, but also because we think of it as a more pure water source. It turns out that even our water is contaminated with plastic particles.
Orb Media, a nonprofit journalism organization based in Washington, D.C., tested 250 bottles of water from 11 major brands and found that they were widely contaminated with plastic particles including polypropylene, nylon, and polyethylene terephthalate (PET). Plastic particles were found in 93 percent of samples, which originated from 19 locations, over nine countries, on five continents.
Orb points to an increasingly hot topic, microplastic pollution that has been been found in soil, oceans, lakes, rivers and even air. Last year, Orb conducted a study that found microplastic fibers in global tap water samples. Plastic is truly everywhere.
What's not certain is how this will impact human health.
One of the things that interested us most about Nielsen's presentation was the focus on finding alternative packaging for single-use plastic items. We are encouraged to hear that international attention is being placed on eco-friendly packaging.
At Ross & Wallace we are proud to be a part of the sustainable packaging movement as a manufacturer of paper packaging options that are recyclable, renewable, reusable, compostable, and biodegradable. #choosepaper
For full details on Orb's findings please visit: https://orbmedia.org/stories/plus-plastic/text
2018 has seen an intensified focus on the damage single-use plastics can cause to the environment. For The United Nations Environment Programme's World Environment Day 2018, the focus has been "Beat Plastic Pollution." They published a very extensive, intriguing report, The State of Plastics, that is certainly worth a read. It's a bit of a deep read though, so we've pulled out some interesting quotes for an overview. What we are most excited about at Ross & Wallace is the focus on environmentally sustainable packaging like paper which is recyclable, reuseable, compostable, and biodegradable.
- "It is estimated that roughly 5 trillion plastic bags are consumed worldwide each year. That is almost 10 million plastic bags per minute. If tied together, plastic bags could be wrapped around the world seven times every hour." (p.6)
- "Depending on their composition, reusable bags might have to be deconstructed in the recycling process to separate the different materials. Consequently, reusable bags are often not recycled. This means that millions of reusable bags end up in landfills at the end of their useful life." (p.8)
- "The term “biodegradable” may be misunderstood by customers to mean bags that are fit for home composting or bags that break down in the environment naturally and quickly. In reality, the majority of biodegradable plastics only biodegrade under high temperatures." (p.8)
- "It is neither possible nor desirable to remove all plastic from society. However, given the scale of today’s plastic crisis, alternative materials have a significant role to play in reducing our dependence on plastic, whose cost and convenience has seen production of the material skyrocket in recent decades. This trend is set to continue, meaning that our ability to deal with plastic waste, which is already beyond breaking point, will deteriorate further." (p. 14)
Have you ever wondered why fresh, bakery bread is sold in paper bags while longer-lasting packaged breads are sold in plastic? It comes down to that delicious, flaky crust. Plastic wrapping traps in moisture, which can make the bread soggy. A traditional paper bag lets the bread breathe preserving the intended texture of the bread. If you don't plan to eat the bread within two days, simply pop it into the freezer and thaw when you're ready to enjoy it.
There's something even more sweet about a gift wrapped with a personal touch and tender care.
We think these miniature gingerbread houses made from a natural kraft SOS grocery bag are just the thing to hold a cookie, a card, or a small trinket. Believe it or not, they are also easy to make!
Start by gathering your supplies:
- Small paper bag (any size will work)
- Hole punch
- Ribbon or twine
- Puffy paint, crayons, or stickers
Design your gingerbread house:
- Using puff paint or a crayon, decorate your paper bag keeping in mind that the top corners will eventually be folded to make your roof. You can also use stickers or other embellishments to add a pop of color or visual interest.
- Once your paint has dried, open the bag and fold the top corners of the bag down to create a triangle
- Use a hole punch to create two holes
Gather your goodies!
Gather the goodies of your choice, and place them in your open bag
Tie with twine, string, or ribbon of your choosing
Enjoy your handiwork:
And remember, any flaws are just part of the charm!
Learn how to make an adorable centerpiece for your kid's table with just a couple of brown bags, white paper, a glue gun, and some scissors.
You can refer to our previous post, How to Make Popcorn in a Paper Bag for a healthy, easy "stuffing."
Start by gathering your supplies:
- One 1/6 BBL SOS grocery sack (ask at the checkout counter of your local grocery store)
- Two 2# natural grocery bags or other small size (ask at the bakery counter of your local grocery store)
- A hot glue gun
- White copy paper (8 1/2 x 11")
- Three to four bags of popcorn, or see our post about how to make your own! How to Make Popcorn in a Paper Bag
Make the frills:
- Cut your 8 1/2 x 11" white paper lengthwise
- Fold both pieces in half lengthwise
- Use the scissors to make small cuts on the folded side to create loops
Create your drumsticks:
- Make a fist and stick your hand inside one of the small, brown bags
- Using your free hand, mold the top of the bag into a more rounded shape
- Fill 2/3 of the bag with popcorn and twist the bottom of the bag to keep it tight
- Use the hot glue gun to secure the white frill on the bottom of your drumstick and glue the end of the frill to itself to keep it in place
- Repeat for second drumstick
Form the turkey's body:
- Use the the larger brown grocery sack to create the body of your turkey
- Similarly to your drumsticks, use your hands to smush the edges of the sack into a round shape
- Fill the bag with popcorn
- Fold the left and right edges at the bottom of the bag under, so you have three straight edges instead of one large one
- Tuck the bottom edge of the bag under and hot glue gun it shut
Isn't it a beauty? Garnish with parsley, gourds, or any other fall favorites, and have an adult "carve" your bird for your guests to enjoy before the main event. This one is sure to be a crowd pleaser for kids and adults alike!
You can quickly, easily, and creatively protect textbooks from wear and tear with just a brown paper grocery sack!
What you’ll need:
- Standard 1/6 barrel grocery sack. Ask at your local grocery store for a paper sack at check out.
- A Pencil
Open the bag and cut along a side seam from top to bottom and then all the way around the bottom of the bag until you are left with one large rectangle of paper and a small rectangle of paper that had previously been the bottom of the bag. Discard the small rectangle, or have your kids cut it into strips and decorate it for book marks!
Lay your book in the center of the large rectangle of paper. Use a pencil to mark the top and bottom of the bag then fold along the lines you made (longways). Press the folds firmly, so that you have a crisp edge.
Move the book to the left edge of the newly folded rectangle of paper. Take the left edge of the paper so that it wraps around the left end of the book’s cover by about one third to one half of the width of the inside cover. Remove the book and then fold the left edge to make a crisp crease in the paper. Once you’ve made your crease, slip the cover of the book inside the edges of the fold. Slide the cover down until it fits snugly against your crease.
Leaving the cover of the book tucked into the cover, take the right edge of the folded rectangle of paper and fold it over the back cover of the book so that it covers between ½ and 1/3 of the back cover of the book when the book is closed. You may need to trim down your folded rectangle of paper to fit your book. Once you’ve measured and trimmed your paper, fold and press firmly. As in step three, tuck the back cover of your book into the paper fold to secure the cover on your book.
You’ve successfully constructed a sturdy book cover from a brown paper bag. If it’s for a child’s book, we suggest having them write in the name of the book and decorate it to their liking.
Some of our "junior" staff are excited to share their book cover creations with you. Good luck in the new school year Braden Pete, Ashlyn, and Andrew!
Part of what we all understand to be true is also entirely accurate – to make paper you must use trees. What is a little less intuitive is that using paper products actually supports forests.
What it boils down to is that if there is demand for wood-based products like paper, there is incentive for landowners to maintain and responsibly manage forestland, which provides income. Without the demand for wood-based products like paper, the land maintained as forests would likely be put to another economically beneficial use.
Unlike in generations past where poor logging practices could be destructive, today’s forest owners follow national, state, and local requirements to grow forests in a way that preserves ecosystems and growth. By using wood-based products like paper, consumers can contribute to maintaining a healthy forestry industry.
In fact, since the government began tracking forests in the 1950’s there are millions more acres of forestland than a generation ago!
Don’t just save a tree, save a forest. – choose paper.
Want to know more?
Please visit: Two Sides NA
Did you know that many recycling facilities do not accept plastic bags? Though it seems counterintuitive, one of the best ways to help your municipality’s recycling efforts is to know what NOT to put into your recycling bin.
Recyclables entering a single stream recycling process are sorted by automated equipment. When plastic bags become wrapped around sorting disks, the equipment can no longer sort efficiently. This results in staff having to routinely halt production to clear the bags away from the sorting disks.
Lisa Disbrow, Director of Public Affairs for Waste Management's CID Recycling Center in Chicago, cites that the problems arising from plastic bags account for tens of thousands of dollars in added costs to the recycling process. In addition to the incease in processing costs, clogs in the recycling equipment can cause mixed bales, which cannot be used by manufacturers and must be re-processed.
The moral of the story is to keep those plastic bags out of your recycling bin. You can rest at ease that your plastic bags will do more harm than good in the recycling bin. On the other hand, please DO make sure that your paper grocery bags go into the recycling bin as they are widely accepted and easily recycled.
Did you know that Americans throw away 25% more trash during the holiday season?
That’s 25 million tons of extra garbage! Take these five easy steps to go green during the holidays.
1.) Skip the shiny wrapping paper. In many areas it cannot be recycled, so check before you put it in the blue bin. Instead, use untreated paper, like Ross & Wallace’s kraft paper, that can be recycled easily. Kraft paper looks great plain, but if you have kids at home, we suggest enlisting the them to draw designs on it for a festive touch that keeps them entertained.
2.) DO recycle your boxes, cans, and paper. In the days of online holiday shopping, there are quite a few empty boxes laying around. Though they can be cumbersome, cardboard boxes as well as cans, plastic milk jugs, and bottles are “high value” recyclables, but 69% of plastic bottles and 45% of aluminum cans don’t get recycled.
3.) Keep plastic bags OUT of the recycling bin. Though some grocery and retail stores will collect used plastic bags for recycling, they can clog equipment and shut down an entire recycling plant. Because of this, Recycle Often Recycle Right has asked that plastic bags not be placed in with general recycling. Deposit plastic bags at participating stores, but keep them out of your at-home bin.
4.) Go compostable! Soiled paper plates, cups, and napkins are not recyclable. It’s best to opt for reusable items, but if you go the disposable route, look for compostable brands.
5.) Keep it clean and dry. Soggy items can spoil an entire load of recycling!
California passed a statewide ban on single-use plastic carryout bags.
GET THE FACTS on Proposition 67 “The Plastic Bag Ban.”
SENATE BILL 270 – In 2014 the California legislature passed Senate Bill 270, which prohibited certain businesses statewide from providing single-use plastic carryout bags and required businesses to charge customers for any other type of carryout bag provided at checkout.
PROPOSITION 67 – The implementation of Senate Bill 270 was suspended, because Proposition 67, which would eliminate the law, qualified to be on the 2016 ballot. Proposition 67 asked California voters to decide whether the statewide carryout bag law should be upheld or rejected. On November 8, 2016, California’s voters passed Proposition 67, which upheld Senate Bill 270.
IMPACTS - Proposition 67 prohibits certain California stores (most grocery stores, convenience stores, large pharmacies, and liquor stores) from providing single-use plastic carryout bags statewide.
PAPER AND REUSABLE BAGS – Proposition 67 allows businesses to sell recycled paper bags and reusable bags at a minimum price of $.10 cents per bag.
EXCLUDES – Proposition 67 excludes bags for select purposes, such as wrapping unwashed produce and bags for prescription medications. It also excludes certain types of stores such as retail clothing stores. Certain low- income customers are also exempt.
FINES - ($1,000) per day for the first violation, two thousand dollars ($2,000) per day for the second violation, and five thousand dollars ($5,000) per day for the third and subsequent violations.
SUPPORTERS – Albertsons Safeway, The California Grocers Association, Surfrider Foundation, Clean Water Action.
CASE STUDY: San Jose California
San Jose’s Bring Your Own Bag Ordinance went into effect January 1, 2012. Since then San Jose has reported a 76% reduction in plastic bags found in creeks and rivers as of the end of the 2016 hotspot season and a 69% reduction in plastic bags in storm drain inlets.
Did you know that microwave popcorn contains harmful chemicals that end up on your popcorn and in your belly? Yeah, we know, that's gross. Luckily, you can use a classic Ross & Wallace paper bag to make easy, delicious popcorn at home with just three ingredients: popcorn kernels, oil, and salt.
Step 1, gather the essentials.
- Paper Bag (we used an 8#)
- 1/4 cup of popcorn kernels
- 1 tsp, of oil (we used olive oil)
Step 2, combine and microwave
Combine popcorn kernels and oil in your paper bag and fold 3-4 times to prevent the popcorn from escaping. Place the folded bag in the microwave on high for 2 minutes or until popcorn stops popping in regular bursts.
Step 3, add salt and shake
Immediately add salt, or make it gourmet by drizzling melted chocolate or sprinkling on cheese flavoring. Shake well and ENJOY!
Homemade popcorn that's easy, inexpensive, and good for you.