Paper sacks VS plastic bags

Paper sack production is more energy-efficient, uses fewer fossil resources as fuel and raw material, and relies on more renewable energy.

While each type has distinct emission profiles due to varied materials and processes, paper sacks generally fare better in emissions and resource consumption.

Climate change
Paper cement sacks have significantly lower fossil GHG emissions (71 g CO2e) than polyethylene ffs cement sacks (192 g CO2e). The emissions are 2.5 times smaller and therefore have a lower climate change impact.
Fossil energy consumption
The paper sack production is more energy efficient and climate-friendly: › 5 times less fossil resources are used as fuel input (0.97 MJ fossil energy/paper sack versus 4.72 MJ fossil energy/plastic sack). › 18 times less fossil resources are used as raw material within the sack (0.18 MJ fossil energy/paper sack versus 3.19 MJ fossil energy/plastic sack).
Renewable energy consumption
The paper sack system uses more renewable energy sources (0.19 MJ renewable energy/paper sack compared to 0 MJ renewable energy/plastic sack), reflecting the high degree of renewable energy utilization in the pulp and paper industry.
Other emissions into air
During the production process, polyethylene ffs cement sacks produce higher nitrogen oxides (NOx) and sulphur oxides (SOx) emissions (due to the higher consumption of fossil fuels) and higher emissions of the heavy metals lead (Pb) and mercury (Hg) into air. In contrast, paper cement sacks produce higher emissions of ammonia (NH3), non-methane volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and particulates into air.
Source: EUROSAC website
Emissions into freshwater

The polyethylene ffs sack production emits more heavy metals into freshwater, while the paper sack production emits more organic substances into freshwater.

Paper sacks and polyethylene ffs sacks have different emission profiles because they use different raw materials, processes, energy requirements and mixes. That is the reason why the results cannot be directly compared in all aspects. Extending the system boundaries to include three different end-of-life scenarios.

GHG Emissions and Resource Consumption

The results show that the relative standing of emissions for the two different packaging alternatives remains unchanged.

Considering fossil resources consumed as raw material for the two packaging alternatives, the polyethylene ffs sack has a significantly higher consumption and therefore also higher GHG emissions. This remains true also for the recycling scenario, even when a credit for offset virgin polyethylene production are included in the system boundaries.