The Polybag Problem

by Susan


You respect the environment. You want your business practices to reflect a level of conscientious choice, of using materials and processes that are not only non-damaging to our earth, but kind to it.

As a publisher, you are in control of many areas where better environmental practice can be implemented.

PolybagYour paper is sustainably sourced, produced in accordance with responsible forestry practices such as FSC or SFI.

Gone are the days of multiple on-site press checks, with all their associated expense. The accuracy and sophistication of today’s proofing software makes online proofing a smart and time-efficient option. Likewise, paperless invoicing and payments are preferred.

Video conferencing has replaced the time, cost, and associated emissions of face-to-face meetings.

Yet, one item in your purview seems to run counter to the sustainability ethos: the plastic mailing bag that houses and protects your magazine. The polybag.

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) posted an uncool statistic about polyethylene—specifically, about low-density polyethylene (LDPE) #4, which is what polybags are made of—stating that roughly 500,000 tons of it landed in U.S. landfills in 2015. So what’s the alternative to wrapping your publication in plastic?

The Paper Paradox

You may have looked into paper envelopes as an environmentally friendlier alternative, and found that they are EXPENSIVE. What’s more, inserting your magazine into a paper envelope would either require the use of special equipment or be a manual process, adding more cost, and most certainly significant delays to delivery. And, if you enjoy the economy and efficiency of co-mail, you know that paper wrapped publications can’t play – only bag-less or traditional LDPE polybagged publications are permitted to jump in the pool.

No bag at all isn’t an option if your publication mails internationally.

And then, there are the facts. The EPA has stated that the production of plastic bags requires 40% less energy than the production of paper bags, and that paper bag manufacturing creates 70% more air pollution and 50% more water pollution than the production of plastic bags. Additionally, recycling plastic bags uses 91% LESS energy than recycling paper bags. What’s more, pound for pound, paper bags create about 10 times the solid waste of an equal number of plastic bags.

So, while the publication world waits for an enviro-right solution to the polybag problem (and we certainly hope that’s coming), consider letting your readers know that those polybags are indeed recyclable. They can be dropped off at any grocery store with a recycle bin. Consider adding a simple sticker to your polybag:

Recyclable Plastic

Want to feel good about helping your readers recycle? Earth911 says that recycling a ton of plastic bags saves 11 barrels of oil. You might be surprised how quickly a ton of polybags can add up!