Plastic or Paper?

The versatility and durability of plastics shine against alternative substrates like paper-based items. In our pursuit of sustainable progress, plastics stand out for their unique benefits, offering unparalleled resilience and adaptability. Unlike some alternatives, plastics excel in various applications, proving essential for modern living.  Not only do plastic products excel in functionality they also have a lower carbon footprint that many other alternative materials!


Greenhouse Emissions

Life cycle analysis stands out as the most effective tool for methodically evaluating and comparing materials. It offers a rational approach to assessing the impact a material may have in a systematic manner. The following life cycle carbon emissions graph compares the tons of greenhouse gas emissions across five different materials.

Source: Kenneth Green, Plastics and Sustainability, October 2021


Environmental Impacts

Another life cycle analysis was conducted reviewing the sustainability impacts of three types of grocery bags. As shown, the simple polyethylene bag has the lowest impacts on the environment.


The next time you on pondering the differences between plastic and paper based items, we ask that you consider the following benefits of plastic based products.

Unlike some paper-based products, plastic items may be formed  into deep draw geometries expanding their applications.

Recycling and recycling programs are increasing rapidly. Many plastic products including PET, PP, & HDPE are curb-side recyclable.*

Plastic products can offer protection against UV, moisture, and oxygen that extends product shelf-life.

Plastic products are lighter in weight compared to alternatives which decreases delivery fuel consumption.

In retail settings, visualization of the product is a proven selling point. The clarity of plastic items is unmatched.

Paper products can get soggy, glass can shatter, and aluminum can dent. Plastic items offer unparallel durability protecting products.

Plastic products may be made from post-consumer recycled content which supports a circular economy.

Paper products are often coated with PFAS chemicals to be moisture resistant. Plastic products need no such additive.

* Check to see if recycling programs exists in your area.

It is easy to get sidetracked by the misinformation and noise found on-line and other places, but we believe plastic based products are far too valuable a resource to ignore or simply dismiss.  Products made from plastic are lighter, easy to form, durable, and stronger compared to alternatives like paper.  And as has been illustrated here plastic products have much less of an environmental footprint than other types of materials.

There is still work to be done and improvements to be innovated.  At kp, our work never ends regarding environmental stewardship.  From products that were once not recyclable, but now may be like kpNext® blister packs and SmartCycle® shrink sleeve label films to the groundbreaking use of recycled materials such as SecondLife® card filmsSmartCycle® consumer packaging, kpEnhance® RM1 nutraceutical films, and ShoreCycle graphics  films.  kp is your trusted source for innovative products that will meet or exceed your sustainability and functional needs.