Paper or Plastic?

By: Erik Kane | On: December 19, 2019

“Paper or plastic?” Once one of our most commonly-uttered phrases is now all but extinct.  Plastic products have become somewhat of a hot-button issue in recent years, due to increased focus on becoming an environmentally friendly economy and the dangers of ignoring our impact on the environment.  So much concern is focused on single-use plastic items that are consumed in large quantities like bags, cups, and straws (of which we still use half a billion each day in the U.S. alone).  The volume of which we manufacture and consume these plastic items is disproportionate to the amount that we are able to reclaim or recycle, and they end up in their non-degradable state in our landfills and in the oceans. As the market transitions away from these traditional “disposable” plastic items, their demand is being substituted by their old rival: paper.

This effect began and is slowly taking place in developed countries, but is even more pronounced in developing nations like India.  Because India has not established the consumption of plastic items as the norm the way we have (India’s per capita plastic consumption is 11kg which is ten times less than the U.S.), they’ve been able to make use of the technological improvements in the pulp and paper industries to take advantage of the shift early…with paper poised to take a large bite out of the single-use plastics market. Paper products are seeing this resurgence because they can often replace their plastic counterparts and offer characteristics that are currently missing from traditional plastics in that they are sustainable, recyclable, and (like plastics) are very versatile.


Sustainability is one of the most important aspects of modern paper products and their production.  Because plastics rely on crude oil and the downstream production of petrochemicals, they are ultimately a finite resource that is dwindling by the day.  Trees are a renewable resource, and have become increasingly supplied from controlled sources instead of traditional means of clearcutting and de-forestation.  Environmentally conscious suppliers of timber who practice sustainable forest management have increased the supply of sustainable timber and helped to actually grow the land area of forests.  In fact, trade organizations, such as the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC), monitor and certify forests to promote responsible management, and give their stamp of approval for those suppliers who comply, while cracking down on companies attempting to use their stamp fraudulently.


With the concern being placed on “single-use” items, the ability to either reuse or recycle items is one of the biggest benefits of paper products. Paper is much easier to recycle and is far more biodegradable.  Recycling paper is accomplished by taking finished products and re-pulping them so that they can be reused (pulp is what we call the unfinished material that is the raw material for the paper making process).  This efficiency gives the industry a much larger base of raw materials to work with and supplements the amount of virgin pulp that has to be manufactured.   This trend has continued over the years, resulting in more and more recycling and less land-filling and makes paper one of the most recycled materials.


One of the major reasons why paper products have always been an option for bags, cups, straws, and all sorts of packaging is due to paper’s versatility! There are so many different grades of paper products and processes that can be performed to change the characteristics of the paper: dyes, treatments, coatings etc. Their variations are all growing in the paper industry and provide manufacturers with more options on the types of finished goods they can offer.  The increased focus on sustainability has also driven the demand for more consumer options that use recycled/recyclable paper packaging (like and influenced the market to provide more choices.

Making more choices for the consumers starts with the industrial manufacturers.  And even as we’ve become more sustainable and efficient, heat and chemicals are still necessary to make the paper products that we all use everyday, which means we still have mission-critical applications.  Transferring chemical agents, high temperature steam, and water treatment operations are essential to the process, and it’s imperative that we treat these areas with care for the sake of our plant personnel as well as our environment. High quality metal hose and metal expansion joints play a crucial role in the function of these plants and Hose Master has continued to be a trusted partner in these applications for decades.  If you have a need for metal hoses or expansion joints in a pulp or paper mill, contact us at or 216-481-2020 and we will be happy to assist you!


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