Are Paper Bags Compostable?

With consumers being more environmentally friendly, there has been an increase in the usage of paper bags. They are made from wood and can be recycled easily. But not all paper bags are equally composed, and you have to be careful while purchasing paper bags. In this article, we will tell you whether or not paper bags are recyclable and compostable.

Can You Compost Paper Bags?

Almost all paper bags and sacks are compostable. The whole recycling paradigm is incomplete without composting. However, not everything can be collected as well as retired easily to the processing plant to turn into new paper.

Brown paper bags can be easily composted, and they offer an energy-efficient way to gain environmental value. But it is important to use a mix of green materials and brown paper bags. Plain brown paper, dead leaves, and cardboard are used in combination with kitchen waster and grass clippings. These are the perfect ingredients for fuel composting.

Next, we come to greaseproof paper bags and whether or not they can be recycled. Yes, these bags can be recycled, and they can also be composted. But they are only recycled and composted when they are treated with organic waxes.

Moreover, the paper bags that are treated with chemicals are challenging to recycle or compost. Plastic, especially polyethylene, are among the materials that can be recycled. However, when they are placed together with paper to coat or line the bag, separating the plastic and the paper creates a problem. Although both the materials can be recycled, they are done in different ways; therefore, they have to be separately treated.

Are Paper Bags Biodegradable?

Paper in any form that includes brown paper bags is easily biodegradable as it is made using organic materials. Kraft paper is used to make brown paper bags that are made from wood chips. They are heated in order to break down into a solid pulp. It then washes as well as bleached to convert into the brown paper.

After these bags are shredded and placed into the composting bin. This starts the process of decomposition of the brown paper. During the manufacturing process of Kraft paper, the heating of wood chips takes out the lignin, a substance that makes the wood rigid. The end product you get is just the cellulose fibers that can be easily decomposed through bacteria when added to the composting bin.

Moreover, it is important to shred or cut the brown paper into smaller pieces; instead of throwing the brown bag into the composite file as it is. This is because large paper pieces will restrict the circulation of air in a pile and can impact the integrity of the overall compost.

Are Brown Paper Bags Compostable?

Brown paper bags make a valuable addition to your compost bin. It is basically a combination of green waste, brown waste, and water. You can put these items one after another in a wooden palate or put them in a composting bin. You can buy the composting bin from any gardening store, or you can make one at home.

It is imperative that you use green and brown waste in equal parts and layer them alternatively on top of each other. Additionally, it is also important to rotate the waste pile regularly to accomplish an appropriate level of acidity in the composite and turn them into an effective soil enhancer for developing any plant type.

Is It Better To Recycle Or Compost Paper Bags?

While recycling saves a lot of resources as opposed to producing new paper, it also retrieves resources from the paper. How about we skip the recycling process; instead perform paper waste composting?

A well-made compost pile depends on mixing both the brown and green waste in an equal amount. Green waste is enriched with nitrogen and made from vegetable trimmings, fruit peels, etc. On the other hand, brown waster is rich in carbon and derived from things like leaves. Moreover, paper products, especially the ones that are unbleached, make up for excellent brown waste to be added to the compost bin. They protect the bin from getting slimy, stinky, and moldy.

By compositing the paper rather than recycling it, you can eliminate the breakdown of resources and manufacture it again into a new paper. There is no need for any recycling bins, trucks to carry it to the plant, slide, machinery, or chemical agents for processing. In a composting process, the paper breaks down its components and then works to fertilize the garden and help in growing your veggies.

Although it appears simple; however, the process where we avoided recycling can also result in the efficiency of composting. In the composting process, we have eliminated the recycling process. That means we have increased the need for more wood to create paper, thereby contributing to forest depletion. The increasing need for paper products implies that there is a need to source raw materials. A reduced number of paper being recycled means that there will be an increased requirement for deforestation.

So in the perspective of demand and supply, recycling paper is better than composting. Although it takes resources, the amount is less significant than it does to produce a new paper. Furthermore, by taking out the paper from the production steam on a big scaley composting rather than recycling, the whole thing might end up doing more harm than good.

When Can You Consider Composting Paper Bags?

An exception to this scenario is when the paper becomes soiled. For instance, a pizza box that is stained with grease or art projects of children, etc. In such cases, the paper is not suitable for recycling, so you can use it for composting; simply shred the paper into a small pierced and put it in the compost pile. This is because white glue, masking tape, greasy pizza stain, etc., are all good for composting. Eventually, both composting and recycling have their benefits and challenges.

How To Compost Paper Bags?

Composting paper bags is quite straightforward. But there are a few steps that you need to be aware of, including:

1. Take Out The Non-Compostable Waste

Depending on the original purpose of the paper bags, you might have to wipe the bag clean before putting them in the composite pile. Things like dairy, meat, etc., are not good for compost. For instance, if you are adding a bag of takeout meals, then make sure you clean it before putting it in the composite pile.

2. Shredding The Paper

Many people use brown paper bags to collect other composite items and then throw the bag directly into the compost. However, it is recommended to shred the paper first. It helps in making the decomposition process quicker. Moreover, they also ensure that all the things inside are mixed properly with each other.

3. Mix It Evenly

Make sure that you mix everything in your compost well. This will assist in ensuring that your compost is not focused on one type of material in a single area. This can lead to undesirable situations. Once you have put all the required materials in a pile, use a pitchfork to mix everything together to create an even combination.

How To Recycle Paper?

Recycling paper is also a process that can be modified according to the quality of the paper. But here are some steps that go into recycling paper –

1. Collection of Paper

The process of recycling starts by collecting and storing paper bags. Paper merchants and recyclers collect the paper and put it in a big recycling container.

2. Sorting and Transportation

The next step is to measure and grade the quality of the paper. Once the paper is sorted based on the quality, they are taken to the recycling center. There the quality and quantity of paper are measured, and the unit issues a purchase agreement to the recycler. This is the step where the center decides which paper can be accepted or rejected. The recycled paper is sorted based on its structure and surface treatment.

3. Shredding and Pulping

Once sorting is done, the paper is shredded down into small pieces. In a large container, these pieces, along with other chemicals like sodium hydroxide, hydrogen peroxide, and sodium silicate, are added to promote breaking down and separation of the fibers of the paper. What you get in the end is a pulp, which is passed through various screens to remove any contaminants.

4. De-Inking

The pulp is added to the flotation tank where the air bubbles and chemicals remove the inks and dyes to improve the witness and purity of the product. Many whitening agents are added to improve the color to get the desired color.

5. Finishing

The pulp is passed through rollers that remove the excess water. Either the pulp can be used along with, or it can be added with virgin wood fiber to give extra smoothness and strength to the paper.

Final Thoughts

Paper bags are good for both recycling and composting. Therefore, it is up to you to use these bags in a safe and efficient manner.

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About Rinkesh

A true environmentalist by heart ❤️. Founded Conserve Energy Future with the sole motto of providing helpful information related to our rapidly depleting environment. Unless you strongly believe in Elon Musk‘s idea of making Mars as another habitable planet, do remember that there really is no 'Planet B' in this whole universe.