Only 7% of South Africans recycle single-use plastic bags. What happens to the rest? A quick glance outside will likely reveal them clinging to trees, lining streets, clogging sewers, and floating in the ocean.
With a lifespan far exceeding ours, it’s not hard to think that those bags you see outside are the same as the ones you saw yesterday and will likely be the same as you see the next day, the next and the next.
But what if these bags were made of 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 mail bags, developed in partnership with South African packaging manufacturer Detpak.
These paper mail bags are designed to do the same job as their plastic counterparts, but they have a unique advantage: they disappear without a trace, bringing much-needed environmental sustainability to the last mile of deliveries to South Africa.
Carla Breytenbach, Marketing Manager at Detpak, explains:
“For us, creating products with minimal impact on the environment goes beyond corporate responsibility, it’s our passion. That is why all Detpak packaging is fully biodegradable and compostable. It only takes about 90 days for our paper to decompose in commercial facilities and it can even decompose in household compost bins. This is in stark contrast to single-use plastics which typically take hundreds of years to fully decompose. “
“For us, creating products with minimal impact on the environment goes beyond corporate responsibility, it’s our passion. This is why Detpak’s goal is to provide packaging that is both environmentally friendly and suitable for use. Our bags comply with the European standard EN13432 for compostability, which means they can even be added to your home compost bin where they break down into nutrients which can be returned to your garden. This is in stark contrast to single-use plastics which typically take hundreds of years to fully decompose. “
The reason for the long biodegradation process of plastic is at the molecular level. Plastic is made from polymers that come from petroleum or natural gas, two non-renewable energy sources.
Because plastic is man-made, these polymers are arranged in an unnatural way, which is why plastic bags don’t biodegrade in the same way as paper bags.
Once the plastic begins to break down, it shatters into tiny microscopic pieces, which easily spread throughout 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 sturdy nature of plastic is one of the main reasons why it has become such a popular material in packaging design.
Many consider alternative materials like paper too weak and too expensive to completely replace plastic as a sustainable resource.
Responding to this concern, Michaela Gabriel, Marketing Manager at Pargo, explains:
“We’ve spent over a year developing our new paper mail bags with Detpak to make sure they’re tough enough to withstand the strain of shipping across the country. The result of this long process is a mailbag with the same moisture resistance as the paper used in the cement industry.
Although seemingly inexpensive to produce, plastic bags have many hidden costs. They are made from non-renewable resources and stay in our environment much longer than they are used, while paper can biodegrade completely. Pargo’s new mail bags also use water-based inks and glues to reduce 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, instead looking at the origin of the paper.
“All of Detpak’s paper comes from responsible forestry, which means our suppliers have been audited for evidence of sustainable and ethical practices, for example their cash crops are located in areas with high rainfall to reduce the number of resources necessary for their maintenance. Above all, this also means that the raw material we use is renewed at a rate equal to its consumption, ”explains Carla Breytenbach.
Michaela Gabriel continues: “It was of the utmost importance for us to work with a local company like Detpak, which employs around 280 people, to develop our new mail bags. Maintaining production in South Africa allows us to further reduce the carbon footprint of our deliveries and this also benefits the local economy.
Pargo’s new paper mail bags are available to their retail partners at no additional cost, making the decision to go green easier than ever.
Bring sustainability to the last mile of deliveries by visiting Pargo’s website.