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Can Paper Bags Be Recycled?

Paper bags are a common sight at grocery stores, clothing stores, and pharmacies. They’re also great for carrying your packed lunch. But have you ever wondered … can these paper bags be recycled? The answer is yes!

Paper bags are widely accepted for recycling across the U.S. They are the only bags that are recyclable in curbside bins. This ease of recycling makes them a convenient choice.

Recycling is a critical part of the paper industry’s manufacturing process. And recyclable paper products, like paper bags, are a key component of our circular value chain.

Beyond Recyclable: The Sustainable Story of the Paper Bag

The benefits of paper bags extend beyond their recyclability. There are many reasons they are a sustainable option, including:

  • Paper Bags are Made from a Renewable Resource: Paper bags are made from trees, which are a renewable resource. Responsible forest management practices ensure trees are replanted on working forests.
  • Paper Bags Contain Recycled Paper: Many paper bags are made with recycled paper fibers using responsible manufacturing practices. The paper industry has consistently high recycling rates.
  • Paper Bags are Compostable: Unwaxed paper bags can decompose in a compost pile.
  • Paper Bags are Reusable: Sturdy and durable paper bags can be used multiple times. They can be reused to pack lunches, store grass clippings, hold other recyclables and more. 

Paper Bags are Versatile

Paper bags offer a versatile solution for a variety of needs. They’re also strong and reliable. From picking up a prescription to presenting a special gift, paper bags can be used in many scenarios:

  • Pharmacy Bags: Paper bags are commonly used at pharmacies. They help keep medication picked up at the pharmacy a private matter.
  • Gift Bags: Paper gift bags are a thoughtful and personal touch for any gift. They can also be reused.
  • Grocery and Shopping Bags: Paper bags are sturdy and have lots of space. This makes them a great option for carrying groceries or shopping finds.
  • Lunch Bag: Paper bags are an easy, simple, and reusable option for taking lunch to work every day.
  • Bakery Bags: Paper bags are breathable, which makes them a great choice for keeping baked goods fresh.

Paper bags are a recyclable, convenient and sustainable option. The recycling rate for paper has met or exceeded 63% every year since 2009. That includes paper bags. 

The American Forest & Paper Association (AF&PA) serves to advance U.S. paper and wood products manufacturers through fact-based public policy and marketplace advocacy. The forest products industry is circular by nature. AF&PA member companies make essential products from renewable and recyclable resources, generate renewable bioenergy and are committed to continuous improvement through the industry’s sustainability initiative —Better Practices, Better Planet 2030: Sustainable Products for a Sustainable Future. The forest products industry accounts for approximately 5% of the total U.S. manufacturing GDP, manufactures about $350 billion in products annually and employs about 925,000 people. The industry meets a payroll of about $65 billion annually and is among the top 10 manufacturing sector employers in 43 states. Visit AF&PA online at or follow us on Twitter @ForestandPaper