Inner Packaging Bags: Paper vs Plastic

What is the Best Choice for Inner Packaging?

The poly bag is an issue fashion brands are looking to tackle. Manufacturers package garments individually in clear plastic bags to keep them clean and separated as they travel to distribution facilities and then retailers or fulfillment centers. In fulfillment centers, these bags help receivers stock items properly and pickers ensure they have pulled the right goods for each order.

But….this creates A LOT of single use plastic that is almost always made of virgin material. Progressive brands are actively seeking alternatives, including eliminating these bags altogether. 

EcoEnclose offers four eco-friendly alternatives. The EcoBand Product Wrap is not a great solution for wholesale packaging to protect a product from factory to end consumer. Because of this, we compare only the Flap & Seal, Glassine Bag, and Kraft Bag here. None is the perfect eco solution, and there are no clear eco winners. This article gives more information on each of these three options to help you choose between them. 

100% recycled clear poly bags

Flap & Seal Poly Bags

100% recycled. Protect apparel and more from dust, dirt, moisture, and scratching. Available with and without suffocation warning.

FSC certified vela glassine paper bag

Vela Glassine Paper Bags

FSC certified virgin paper. Curbside recyclable alternative to a clear poly bag. Smooth, translucent paper, resealable adhesive strip.

100% recycled kraft bag for inner packaging

Kraft Paper Bags

100% recycled, 60-90% post-consumer waste. Curbside recyclable alternative to a clear poly bag. Available with or without a seal.

100% recycled paper product wrap

EcoBand Product Wrap

100% recycled, 30% post-consumer waste. Curbside recyclable alternative to a clear poly bag. 80# Kraft paper keeps goods secure.


Raw Materials

Winner: Kraft Bags

We prioritize packaging that is made with as much recycled content as humanly possible, with an emphasis on post-consumer waste. Our Kraft Bags are made from 100% recycled natural Kraft paper. These bags come with or without a seal. Those without a seal are made with 90% post-consumer waste and those with a seal are made with 60% post-consumer waste.

Our Glassine Bags are made from paper and they are FSC certified, utilizing wood from a controlled blend of trees in British Columbia, CA: Western Yellow; Red Cedar and BC Interior Spruce, Pine; Fir (SPF). FSC certified raw materials are generally net positive to the environment, as these trees are grown in ways that absorb carbon, support soil health, and are replenished through new plantings when they are cut down.

Our Flap & Seals are made with 100% recycled post-industrial plastic. While post-industrial content is not as impactful to the planet as post-consumer content, we have been unable to achieve as clear of a bag as is needed when post-consumer content is added.

While the raw materials of Glassine Bags are preferred to the raw materials of Flap & Seal, we recognize that there is an opportunity for improvement in both of these offerings. Adding recycled content to our Glassine Bags and adding post-consumer waste to our Flap & Seals would move them forward ecologically.  


Carbon and Emissions of Manufacturing

Winner: 100% Recycled Flap & Seal

The manufacturing process of a virgin paper package is more carbon intensive and polluting than the manufacturing process of an equivalently sized virgin plastic package. 

Two factors make the differential between our Flap & Seals and Glassine Bags even greater. First is that glassine is more energy intensive to produce than traditional paper. This is because the lignin must be completely removed from the raw wood chips (requiring more bleach and heat than standard paper) and because of the high heat and pressure required for super calendaring. Second, our Flap & Seals are 100% recycled, meaning that their carbon footprint and emissions is lower than with virgin poly film.

Carbon and Emissions of Transport

Winner: 100% Recycled Flap & Seal

Glassine Bags are more than three times thicker and heavier than Flap & Seal. This means that transporting and storing them takes 3 times the resources. 

It is important to note, however, that for most manufactured goods, transportation represents 3-10% of the carbon footprint - not significant, but also not a major contributor.


End of Life

Winner: Glassine Bags

This is where Eco Glassine Bags truly shine! They are curbside recyclable. What’s more, because they are virgin paper with long fibers, they are a highly desirable input in the recycling stream. Additionally, they are naturally biodegradable and compostable. 

We don’t advocate for composting them though! Recycling is a more eco-friendly outcome for paper, especially this type of high quality paper. However, if they happened to end up as litter, they would biodegrade.

100% Recycled Flap & Seals are recyclable but not biodegradable. Like all thin film, they cannot be curbside recycled as the flimsy material gets caught in the gears of the sorting equipment at materials recovery facilities. They must be recycled at thin film drop offs, which can be found in almost every grocery store and big box retailer nationwide. Because of this inconvenience, they unfortunately have lower recycling rates than paper (11.5% for plastic bags compared to 66% for paper goods). 


Winner: 100% Recycled Flap & Seal (by a small margin)

It is hard to beat the functionality of any plastic, including 100% Recycled Flap & Seals - fully waterproof, clear and durable. But we are very excited about Glassine Bags because they do offer a lot of the functionality that companies need for this wholesale packaging.

They are translucent enough to be able to see the color of an item inside of them. A barcode can scan through them. They offer some moisture resistance. Unlike standard paper, glassine is toothless, and doesn’t abrade goods or run paper fibers onto contents. And one benefit of glassine over poly film is that it doesn’t not produce static! We can tell you from experience that this is a much appreciated bonus! 

Additionally, we love that these Glassine Bags are gusseted and have air holes, making them easy to use in a high speed operation. 


Winner: 100% Recycled Flap & Seal

Paper is more expensive than plastic, and this cost differential can be seen in our pricing for Flap & Seals and Glassine Bags. Depending on your desired size and quantity, Glassine Bags are 2.5 to 4 times the price of Flap & Seals. 


Branding and Aesthetics

Winner: Kraft Bags

One of our favorite things about our Kraft Bags is that they can be custom branded in relatively low quantities. Because this is internal packaging rather than an outer shipping solution, the likelihood that a well-branded Kraft Bag ends up in the hands of customers without blemishes or scuffs is high.

Additionally, whether they are branded or not, Kraft Bags are not a very common internal packaging solution, especially our Kraft & Seal Bags so customers will notice that your packaging strategy is truly unique in its effort to be more sustainable.

For more information on the Fashion Industries quest for a more sustainable poly bag, and a comparison of eco features of different options, check out this incredible paper by Fashion For Goods

This graphic (on Page 29 of the report) is particularly effective at summarizing some key trends when comparing various poly bag options and alternatives.