paper vs plastic

Paper Vs Plastic Debate

Paper Vs Plastic debate

We have seen a monumental shift of consumer interest in sustainable packaging alternatives over the last few years.

This movement to sourcing sustainable packaging products, coupled with the plastic packaging tax being brought in, in April 2022, gives the impression that plastic packaging is a lot worse for the environment than paper. Whilst in some respects this is true, there is a large debate on the benefits of plastic over paper.

At Southgate, whilst we acknowledge the benefits of paper products and the ease of recyclability, we are firm believers that ‘plastic is not evil’ and can have equal benefits when being sourced responsibly.


– It is biodegradable-Does not impact the rainforest/general tree population
– It is easily recyclable, available by curbside collections-Very durable, can be used repeatedly
-Around 83% of paper was recycled in Europe in 2019-41% of plastics were recycled in Europe, but this can be partially attributed to fewer plastic recycling resources
-Does not have the same environmental impact on wildlife as plastics-Paper often weighs more than its plastic counterpart, increasing carbon footprint in travel and logistics
-It only takes 2-6 for paper to decompose in landfills 


-4 billion trees are cut down each year for paper- this is the equivalent of 1% of the Amazon Rainforest-Has dangerous repercussions on wildlife when not responsibly disposed of
-paper accounts for 25% of landfill waste-Some plastics are estimated to take 500 years to decompose
-Paper products weigh more than plastic products and as such increase carbon footprint in logistics-Plastics create an eyesore to the environment


The Science

Now it is time to break down the science behind making paper and plastic, and the impact that this has on the environment.

It takes four times the amount of energy to create a paper bag as opposed to a plastic bag. Additionally, Paper and pulp are the 3rd largest industrial polluter of air, the methane gas is 25x more toxic than CO2. Paper bags, in production, emit 70% more air and 50% more water pollution than its plastic counterpart.

As a result, it takes three reuses of paper bags to neutralise its environmental impact, however due to its limited durability this is not always possible.

It also takes 91% more energy to recycle a pound of paper compared to a pound of plastic. However, the machinery to recycle plastics is a lot more expensive and plastic tends to damage and clog up the recycling units.


From looking at all sides of the debate it is clear that there are benefits and disadvantages to using both materials. In a business’s move to a more circular economy it should be a healthy mixture of both plastic and paper, used in their most environmentally responsible way.

For example, you can partner with environmental groups who aim to replant trees to negate the negative environmental impacts. Southgate’s airwave carbon neutral film is made of more than 53% recycled plastic and with the support of rainforests project we actively contribute all CO2 from production and the raw materials for projects in the Brazilian Rainforest.

Using recycled, home compostable, biodegradable plastics helps to reduce the excess plastic packaging from damaging the environment. Ultimately whilst there are many disadvantages to using any materials, we must remember that plastic is not evil.

Check out our new sustainability brochure to discover more about our environmentally conscious products.

You can also contact us directly on to speak to a member of our team today.

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