Is paper packaging really as sustainable as we think?

by Evelina Gruzdova

The modern world is facing a lot of environmental problems, such as climate change, air and water pollution, biodiversity loss and others. Therefore, sustainability, especially its environmental aspect, has become one of the most trending and relevant topics nowadays.

People as well as companies are trying to keep up with it and one of the popular ways to do it, especially used by companies or businesses is the substitution of plastic with paper materials and packaging. But is paper packaging really as sustainable as we think? In this blog post, we will try to think about this question and explore some ideas about it.

Plastic and its impact

A lot of people are familiar with the environmental impact of plastics. As synthetic plastic is nonbiodegradable it persists in the environment, which causes pollution. According to National Geographic about 8 million tons of plastic waste are entering the oceans every year, and this is even without considering land pollution and microplastics. Many different animal species and their populations are badly affected by it.

Pros and cons of paper as a material

Of course, knowing how harmful plastic is to the environment we start to think of its alternatives and compare it to other materials, in our case, paper. As mentioned earlier, paper and cardboard have been now commonly used instead of plastics as they are considered more sustainable. But have you ever thought about its environmental impact?

Let’s first highlight the advantages of paper as a material. For example, paper is made from wood and, therefore, comes from renewable sources – forests. It is also recyclable, as paper fibres are long enough to be recycled several times before the product is disposed, and biodegradable, as it decomposes in the environment and doesn’t cause pollution.

But what about its disadvantages in terms of sustainability?

When it comes to production, paper manufacturing consumes a lot of energy and water. The chemicals used in paper production also have a negative impact on the environment.

Paper is also less reusable in comparison to plastic. But at the same time, even though plastic durability is longer, people do not always fully use it and can always throw it away so it will become waste.

Another problem can be deforestation, which can later lead to ecosystems damage and biodiversity loss. Even if new trees are constantly planted to limit the impact, it still takes a lot of time and resources.


As can be seen from the discussion, paper as a material in comparison with plastics can have both advantages and disadvantages. Paper has a larger environmental impact from the manufacturing process, while plastic is harmful as waste. It cannot be said that the use of paper is absolutely sustainable and doesn’t have any impact or issues, but this example clearly shows how controversial the topics regarding sustainability can be. Therefore, it is very important for us to think about these topics and questions from different points of view and try our best to find and make the most sustainable choices after that.