Why Do Paper Bags Smell So Bad?

Paper comes from trees – not one, but lots and lots of them. The logging industry is enormous and is influenced by gigantic companies like Kimberley-Clarke and Weyerhaeuser. The process of bringing that brown paper bag to the grocery store is sordid and lengthy, exacting a heavy toll on the planet earth.

First things first, why do paper bags smell so bad? The smell from the paper bag comes from a special kind of technique known as Kraft Pulping. This practice involves using chemicals and heat to pulpwood chips for making paper. This reaction produces “TRS or total reduced sulfur,” a gaseous sulfur compound that emits a foul odor, thus becoming the reason for the paper bag smelling ugly. 

Let us know a little more details about brown paper bags. Keep on reading the article below. 

How Are Paper Bags Made?

As we all know, paper comes from trees. The cellulose fiber is extracted from these trees and turned into pulp. Therefore, the paper bags are made from cellulose pulp pressed into paper rolls or flat sheets. These paper rolls are then cut to size, that is, twice the dimensions of the required height of the paper bag. These sheets are then folded, and two open parallel sides are stuck together. 

Here’s a video on how Paper Bags are made:

What Is A Paper Bag Mainly Made Of? Are There Any Toxic Chemicals In A Paper Bag?

The main ingredient used in all types of paper bags is plant material. Filling or loading materials like CaCO3, clay, talc, and TiO2 are typically used for better printability and higher brightness. Alum, rosin, and a mixture of other chemicals are used to make a paper bag water-resistant. 

The glue, ink, and other recycled materials used in manufacturing a brown paper bag may emit toxic fumes on heating. Also, a paper bag can instantly ignite during heating. Therefore, the paper bag may not contain any poisonous chemicals but can produce harmful fumes upon heating.

Is A Paper Bag Better Than A Plastic Bag?

Bags made from paper are more biodegradable and recyclable than plastic. However, a few points make paper bags not much better than plastic ones. These are as follows:

  • Paper bags are bigger than plastic ones in size, taking up more space in the landfills. However, the paper has a faster degradation rate than plastic. 
  • The lack of air, light, and oxygen in landfills means nothing decomposes there, neither plastic nor paper. Therefore, the materials are destined to spend an equal period of time in landfills.
  • It takes five times more energy to make a paper bag than a plastic one. Furthermore, paper is obtained from trees, which means making paper bags produces more waste and is also involved in killing the most significant tools to fight pollution, which are trees. 
  • Paper bags add 70% more air pollution to the environment than plastic. 


So, what is the safest option? Reusable bags, of course. For example, the best bag you can use is a bag made of cloth. These bags can be reused around 600 times for multiple purposes like carrying lunch, grocery shopping, carrying school essentials, and much more!  

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