The Future of Paper Bags - NEON eCommerce Packaging

The Future of Paper Bags

Mar 03, 2023Sean Downs

A Brief History of Paper Bags

brown kraft paper bag with handle

Paper bags were first invented and patented in the early 1850s by American inventor Francis Wolle, who had been working in his father’s grocery store and noticed the need for something convenient to carry more goods out of the shop. Shortly after, the first Union Bag & Paper Company paper plant was built and employed over 500 people at the time where it became a tourist attraction.

A few years later in the 1870s, the mother of paper bags and famous inventor Margaret Knight improved on the design and added the flat bottom that we’re so familiar with today. Shortly after that, Charles Stillwell also improved on the design by adding pleated sides to the bags so they could be stored easily. 

Paper bags became the standard for shops around the world because their customers could now carry more items more easily than ever before, with the added bonus of being able to print their shop logo on them for free advertising! Paper bags saw a sharp decrease in popularity however in the 1970s following the invention of the single-use plastic bag. They were cheaper to produce, so grocery shops quickly and eagerly switched to the new invention.

In the early 2000s, it was discovered and widely communicated that these convenient plastic bags were causing serious environmental damage throughout the entire eco-system. Because this is known amongst consumers, there has now been a significant increase in the use of paper bags once again. The manufacturing of paper bags is more environmentally friendly, the end product can be made of materials that would ordinarily be thrown away, and they can be recycled many times to make new bags.

Consumer demand for more eco-friendly packaging is the driving force in the rising popularity of paper bags as they can be just as sturdy and versatile for shopping and gifting as their single-use plastic or plastic-coated counterparts.

What is in store for paper bags?

white paper bag with woven handles

Since the rise of the industrial age, environmental pollution has become part of our daily life. Everywhere you look from the skies to the seas, you can see pollution. Customers and individuals worldwide are learning about and implementing new ways to become more sustainable and are beginning to demand the same of the businesses that they regularly shop from.

This is great news for paper bags! As a more sustainable option, we’re seeing a huge rise in popularity for paper bags, and demand for more sizes, shapes, colours, and grades is also increasing. More and more consumers prefer using paper instead of plastic when shopping, grocery, or for gifting. Studies suggest that the industry need for brown paper bags could reach up to $8.77B (USD) by 2029. This forecast tells us that paper bags have come a long way in providing businesses and retailers with the best fashionable and practical packaging for both customers and the environment.

It’s only recently that more industries have begun utilising paper bags as their primary mode of transporting goods. Whether it be in department stores, supermarkets, retail markets, and gift shops, paper bags have become globally developed and mandated. This positive change in the traditional market style of purchasing has a beneficial impact on the environment.

With the large variety of paper bags on the market, you can find a bag to suit every need! Types of widely available paper bags include flat-bottomed grocery bags, fold out grocery bags with twisted paper handles, deluxe paper bags with cotton handles for a more upscale vibe, and premium paper bags with woven paper handles for that designer feel without sacrificing environmental responsibility.

As we see demand rise for more and more kinds of bags, we will see industry leaders in this space step up to the mark and invent new and better designs to meet different needs.

Current & New Technology for Paper Bags

machine to create paper bags

The most common form of paper bag used today is the kraft paper bags. The Kraft Paper used to create our new favourite bags is created from a variety of woodchip and wood pulp, some of which would ordinarily be disposed of and serve no further purpose. The wood materials are then steamed and pulped, and then spread to dry before they get cut to the desired shape. The manufacturing process is usually designed to recapture water and chemicals used in the process, so they can be used again or disposed of responsibly, which makes the whole process more environmentally friendly than that of single-use plastics. The paper is then ready to be transported and assembled into bags.

What makes it ‘kraft’ though? This paper does not get bleached! This means the paper is stronger and allows it to be recyclable while still being strong enough to carry heavy items. It also allows the raw paper to speak for itself by having natural colour variation and impurities to give off that desirable rough and authentic look.

New technology in this space has allowed water-resistant and non-tear paper bags to be developed, which will lead to huge revenue opportunities for manufacturers. This new paper is strong enough to make wide handles out of that are more comfortable to hold and durable enough to support greater weight.

Additionally, new woven paper handles have been developed that will appeal to more upscale customers. These handles are soft and comfortable to hold, which gives a luxury feel to paper bags that you don’t ordinarily get.

These new developments open many opportunities for higher grade paper bags to be produced that will appeal to all markets, including luxury industries such as designer clothing and accessories. You’ll be able to present your brand in the way that you want to, without causing excessive damage to the environment.


kraft paper bags with white background

The demand for paper bags today is high, and as the most versatile and customisable bags, they are preferred for many occasions, such as birthdays and weddings, as well as day to day retail and grocery shopping. The growth of the paper bag industry over the last few years is immense and will have a significant impact on environmental issues such as plastic waste as single-use plastics are being phased out worldwide. 

So what are you waiting for? Be part of the ever-growing number of people using paper bags for positive causes. If you are a business owner and would love to incorporate paper bags into your business, we are here to help! Our many styles of paper bags are available at wholesale prices and can be customised with your company branding, contact us now to find out how! 

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