Only 7% of South Africans recycle single-use plastic bags. What happens to the rest? A quick look outside will likely reveal them clinging to trees, lining streets, clogging drains and floating in the ocean.
With a lifespan far exceeding our own, it isn’t much of a stretch to think that those bags you see outside are the same ones you saw yesterday and will probably be the same you see the next day, the next and the next.
But what if these bags were made from paper? What would our environment look like then?
These are some of the questions that led to the creation of smart logistics company Pargo’s new paper mailing bags developed in partnership with South African packaging manufacturer, Detpak.
These paper mailing bags are designed to do the same job as their plastic counterparts, but they have a unique benefit — they disappear without a trace, bringing much needed environmental sustainability to the last-mile leg of deliveries in South Africa.
Carla Breytenbach, Marketing Manager at Detpak, explains:
“For us, creating products that have minimal impact on the environment goes beyond corporate responsibility, it’s our passion. That’s why Detpak’s focus is to provide packaging that is both environmentally friendly and fit-for-use. Our bags meet the EU standard EN13432 for compostability, which means they can even be added to your home compost bin where they will break down to nutrients that can be plunged back into your garden. This stands in sharp contrast to single-use plastics which typically take hundreds of years to fully decompose.”
The reason behind the lengthy biodegradation process of plastic lies at a molecular level. Plastic is made from polymers that originate from petroleum or natural gases, both non-renewable energy sources.
Because plastic is man-made, these polymers are arranged in unnatural ways, which is why plastic bags don’t biodegrade in the same way as paper bags.
Once plastic eventually begins to decompose, it breaks into tiny microscopic pieces, which easily spreads through the environment.
These “digestible” pieces end up in our oceans, entering the food chain of marine animals and, in some cases, even our own.
The robust nature of plastic is one of the main reasons it has become such a popular material in packaging design.
Many consider alternative materials like paper to be too weak and expensive to fully replace plastic as a sustainable resource.
Addressing this concern, Michaela Gabriel, Head of Marketing at Pargo, explains:
“We spent over a year developing our new paper mailing bags with Detpak to ensure that they are tough enough to withstand the strain of countrywide shipping. The result of this lengthy process is a mailing bag featuring the same wet strength as the paper used in the cement industry.”
Though seemingly inexpensive to produce, plastic bags have many hidden costs. They are made from non-renewable resources and remain in our environment for much longer than they are used, whereas paper can biodegrade completely. Pargo’s new mailing bags also use water-based inks and glues to lessen their environmental impact.
But what are the environmental costs of producing paper? In this case, the actual substrate may not be the most important consideration, one should rather look at the origin of the paper.
“All Detpak’s paper is sourced from responsible forestry, meaning our suppliers have been audited for evidence of sustainable and ethical practice, for instance, their commercial crops are located in high rainfall areas to reduce the number of resources required for their upkeep. Importantly, this also means that the raw material we use is renewed at an equal rate to its consumption,” says Carla Breytenbach.
Michaela Gabriel continues, “It was of the utmost importance for us to collaborate with a local company like Detpak, who employs around 280 staff, to develop our new mailing bags. Keeping the production in South Africa further allows us to further reduce the carbon footprint of our deliveries and it also benefits the local economy.”
Pargo’s new paper mailing bags are available to their retail partners at no additional cost, making the decision to go green easier than ever before.
Bring sustainability to the last-mile leg of deliveries by visiting Pargo’s website.