I had just returned from a trip to the US, where I saw firsthand how paper bags have been transformed into a modern, disposable product that can be carried on the street.
A lot of my fellow travellers were wearing them as they walked, and a few were even taking them out for a spin in the city.
The bag also served as a canvas for my conversation with three American women I met while in South Korea.
I was curious about how they felt about their paper bags and the issues surrounding their use.
What’s behind the paper bag boom?
In the US a paper bag is the perfect solution for commuters in large cities where there are fewer options for public transportation, but the popularity of paper bags has also increased in the past decade.
According to a 2015 study by the nonprofit, Citizens for a Safer and More Sustainable World, a quarter of the US population used paper bags in the previous year.
A survey from the US Postal Service found that almost half of Americans now own a paper backpack, a collection of plastic paper bags with a built-in pen and paper inside, or other similar products.
The Post Office reports that the market is worth more than $8 billion a year, which is up from $2.6 billion a decade ago.
It’s also up from just over $4 billion a day in 2008, and is projected to hit $6 billion in 2020.
I also asked a handful of the women about their concerns about the impact of paper bag use on the environment.
I wanted to know how they think the paper bags they are using today are going to be sustainable.
They all had one thing in common.
“They don’t even need to use the bags,” one woman told me.
She explained that the bags that she uses today were all made from paper, and that she could buy a bag made of paper from Walmart for less than $1.
She said that the paper was recycled, and she could recycle it again with less work.
Another woman said that she bought her paper bag from the Post Office for $2, and used it in her purse and purse sleeve.
The bags that I saw her using are all made of recycled paper, she explained.
But, she said, “they are not recyclable.
They don’t need to be recycled.”
So, what’s the real reason for the surge in paper bags?
A lot has changed in the US since I visited the US in 2015, but paper bag usage has been on the rise in recent years, especially in the suburbs and cities.
In fact, according to the Pew Research Center, between 2004 and 2015, paper bag sales in the United States grew by 50%.
The rise in usage coincided with the economic downturn, and some consumers are opting to go green.
“We’re seeing an increasing amount of people with disposable income buying their own paper bags,” Mark Leibowitz, a paper bags expert and professor of marketing at the University of Southern California, told me during our conversation in Seoul.
Leibovitz said that most paper bags are made from a single-use plastic, but that there are different types of paper.
“There’s paper bags made of polyester and polyester blends,” he said.
“Some are made of plastic but some are made out of paper.”
He added that there is a huge market for paper bags as they are an easy, affordable, and environmentally friendly option.
Lebovitz noted that many companies have started using recycled paper as a replacement for plastic, such as Zappos.
The company also recently launched a paper-bag recycling campaign, and its website offers suggestions on how to recycle your paper bag.
But Leibowson says that while recycled paper bags will continue to be a popular choice for consumers, the environmental impacts of paper should also be considered.
“It’s an environmental issue because they are being recycled in the same way as all the other things that we throw out,” he told me, adding that the waste is then dumped into the ocean or landfill.
In other words, paper bags, which are also considered to be recyclables, can be used for anything else in the future.
Lei, who is based in South Asia, said that paper bags can be recycled with different materials, such an eco-friendly paper that’s produced with biodegradable waste, or recycled plastic.
“The recycling of paper will be a big part of the future of paper,” he added.
In the meantime, I wanted some perspective on what the impact will be on the paper industry and how consumers might change their behavior.
How would you feel about your paper bags getting used as disposable goods?
How do you feel that paper should be recycled?
I wanted a good answer from the women, so I asked them about their opinions on the future paper bag market.
A number of women said that they don’t like using paper bags because they’re a waste, but