Glassine bags are commonly used to hold snacks and other baked goods, as well as for preserving and protecting art and other merchandise due to being air, water, and grease resistant.
These bags serve their purpose very effectively and are often used as an alternative to polyethylene plastic bags in an attempt to be more eco-friendly.
But what exactly is glassine, and is it really more eco-friendly than plastic bags?
Glassine bags are essentially a type of paper, so they are an eco-friendly and sustainable option for packaging.
Continue reading as we discuss exactly what glassine is and why it can be considered eco-friendly.
1. What Are Glassine Bags Made Of?
Glassine bags are made with processed wood pulp, so they are a type of paper product. The exact process used to make glassine bags is known as supercalendering.
The process for making wood pulp is the same as with other types of paper, in which trees are chipped down then added to a heated chemical solution that “cooks” them and turns them into pulp.
The pulp is bleached and treated, then the water is drained out and dried, where it begins to form sheets.
The pulpy material is pressed between two pressure cylinders called calenders in a process known as calendering, which causes the actual paper to form.
The paper is then put through the calendering process several more times – hence it is known as supercalendering – which causes all of the glassine fibers to face the same direction.
But the supercalendering process doesn’t just change the physical structure of the paper.
It changes the chemical structure as well by breaking down the fibers and giving the paper a glossy finish as well as making it denser and less porous.
2. Are Glassine Bags Eco-Friendly?
Glassine bags are eco-friendly in the sense that they are made of paper and not plastic.
While the process for making paper isn’t the most eco-friendly due to lots of chemicals being used, glassine bags are made from renewable resources – trees.
Glassine bags have very similar characteristics to plastic since they are water-resistant, as well as air and grease resistant, due to their low porosity.
On the other hand, plastic that is used to make similar packaging is made with crude oil.
In addition to not being a renewable resource, crude oil has to undergo even more processing in order to be turned into usable plastic.
3. Are Glassine Bags Recyclable?
Since glassine bags are made from paper, they can be recycled through curbside recycling along with other paper products.
However, not all recycling programs may accept them, so you should check with your local recycling facility first.
It’s worth mentioning that paper can only be recycled a certain amount of times before the fibers become too short to be recycled further.
But, this is not the case with glassine bags, as they can be broken down further during the recycling process in order to make other recycled paper products.
You can even find glassine bags that are made from recycled paper as well.
4. Are Glassine Bags Sustainable?
Glassine bags are sustainable since they are made from renewable resources and are recyclable.
Even though cutting down trees can contribute to deforestation, which isn’t sustainable, a lot of trees used for papermaking and other industrial purposes are grown in managed forests.
Managed forests help to ensure that harvesting them remains sustainable and the forest ecosystem is not harmed through the use of regulations such as how the trees can be grown and how many can be harvested at one time.
5. Are Glassine Bags Biodegradable?
Even if glassine bags are not accepted as recyclable materials in your area, they are 100% biodegradable since they are paper products.
Of course, that doesn’t necessarily mean that they should just be thrown away since doing so will likely result in them being placed into a plastic trash bag and going to a landfill.
This will slow down the rate of biodegradation or lead to them decomposing anaerobically, which can release methane – a potent greenhouse gas – into the environment (find out more about that problem here).
6. Are Glassine Bags Compostable?
The good news is that glassine bags are not only biodegradable, but compostable as well.
Composting is human-controlled biodegradation, and composting glassine bags is a great way to dispose of them, especially if they can’t be recycled in your area.
Being a paper product, glassine bags can decompose in as little as a couple of weeks to a couple of months.
The exact amount of time it takes depends on both the environmental and human-controlled factors involved with composting, such as the temperature and weather plus how the compost is stored.
7. Are Glassine Bags Reusable?
Glassine bags are reusable provided that they are clean and in good shape, meaning no rips or tears that would compromise the quality of the bag.
For example, if a glassine bag was used to store food products, make sure that there is no food residue on the bag before you reuse it.
But even if there is, it should still be safe to compost instead of just throwing it away.
8. Is Glassine Toxic?
Glassine has been approved for food use, meaning that it is not toxic. That also means that glassine bags are food safe.
Even though there are chemicals used to make glassine bags, these chemicals are not determined to have a significant impact on the health of humans and the environment in the finished product.
9. Is Glassine the Same as Wax Paper?
Despite being both used for food storage, glassine is not the same as wax paper.
Although they have similar uses and characteristics in being grease and water-resistant, wax paper is often coated with paraffin wax to give it those characteristics.
The characteristics of glassine are a result of the way it is processed. Glassine is also more eco-friendly than wax paper since the paraffin wax used to coat wax paper comes from refining crude oil.
Most wax paper is not recyclable either and can take longer to decompose than glassine does (learn more about wax paper here).
10. Are Glassine Bags Vegan?
Glassine bags are vegan since they are made from plant-based materials instead of animals.
11. Are There Eco-Friendly Alternatives to Glassine Bags?
When it comes to packaging materials, glassine is about as eco-friendly as it gets.
We’ve already discussed why glassine is a much better choice than plastic bags, especially because it has similar characteristics in addition to being eco-friendly.
Another packaging material that is more eco-friendly than plastic is cardboard, but cardboard is still a type of paper product and doesn’t offer the same qualities as far as protection that glassine does.
If you want to be the most eco-friendly when it comes to glassine bags, search for glassine bags that are made with recycled paper.
But even if you can’t find them, any type of glassine bag is still an eco-friendly choice.
Even though the process for making paper is not the most eco-friendly, glassine bags are pretty eco-friendly when it comes to packaging materials – especially given its alternatives.
Glassine is a much better choice than plastic is, and it has similar characteristics to plastic packaging as well.
Another benefit of glassine bags is that they are recyclable, as well as biodegradable and compostable.
The bottom line is that you don’t have to feel guilty about using glassine bags when it comes to being environmentally friendly.