Stronger, water-resistant paper bags

Researchers at Penn State University in the US developed a paper bag that is stronger than a traditional one, resistant to water and a source for biofuel at end-of-life.

Paper bags are an alternative to single-use plastic bags and a way to reduce plastic use. However, a major downside is that paper gets soggy when it gets wet, reducing the bag’s strength drastically. In addition, a paper bag has to be reused several times to beat the carbon footprint of a plastic bag.

The researchers at Penn State University developed a bag that is stronger than a traditional plastic bag, and also water-resistant. To make the bags, the cellulose in paper is torrefied, or roasted in an oxygen-deprived environment, which greatly increases the material’s tensile strength when wet, up to 2,200%.

Rather than recycling the paper bag, the study looked into the possibility of using it as a source of making biofuel.

Photo: George Dolgikh