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The Final Word by Chuck Swann
Are we about to witness the resuscitation of paper bag manufacturing? The recent experience of two major American retailers could be glimmers of it on the horizon. But first a little history of paper bags in Georgia, where I live and work.

Once upon a time, there was a company named Union Bag and Paper Company. It had its beginnings in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania in 1881. In 1887, a company named Camp Manufacturing Company was founded in Franklin, Virginia. In the late 1920s, Union Bag built a major mill in Savannah, Georgia--the largest in the world at the time and for many years following. In 1956, Union Bag and Camp Manufacturing were merged into the Union Camp Corporation.

As one might surmise from the name and mill-building of Union Bag, brown paper bags were a major product coming out of the huge--I mean, yuuuge--complex at Savannah, which I visited several times. No more. Union Camp went out of the paper bag business, under the impact of plastic "T-shirt" bags, so much cheaper and more convenient for retailers. (The whole Savannah shebang was acquired by International Paper in 1999.)

Could paper bags make a come-back? Two A-list companies have just now made headlines--at least, in the paper industry and environmental circles--by announcing that they are making the switch back to paper bags.

Sportswear giant Adidas is removing plastic bags from 14,000 retail stores globally. This means the potential replacement each year of about 70 million plastic bags worldwide. This won't happen overnight, as Adidas franchisees must commit to replacement and undoubtedly will use up existing plastic supplies, but Adidas Group management says the vast majority of them already have done so.

Computer-and-accessories giant Apple has announced that it, too, is making a switch back to paper--away from its iconic drawstring plastic bags. The new bags will be made of 80% recycled materials. Apple's vice president of environmental policy Lisa Jackson says that all Apple packaging will eventually move to paper.

These two companies, undeniably market leaders, will undeniably affect the packaging habits of their many suppliers. Could this be the start of something big? Stay tuned!

Chuck Swann is the senior editor of Paperitalo Publications. He can be reached by email at chuck.swann@taii.com.

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