Biodegradable Bags, Compostable Bags, and Recyclable Bags – What Does it all Mean?

As a paper bag manufacturer, we’re often asked whether our paper bags are recycled, recyclable, biodegradable, or compostable. And the simple answer is that, yes, WCI manufactures paper bags that fall into those various categories. We’d like to provide more information on some common questions regarding paper bags and their environmental implications.

What’s the difference between biodegradable paper bags and compostable paper bags?

In a world where many “eco-friendly” terms are thrown around interchangeably to attract buyers, even the most well-intentioned consumer can feel misinformed. Some common terms you may hear when making decisions regarding which environmentally responsible packaging best suits your product or brand are:

Biodegradable Bag: A bag that will break down into carbon dioxide, water, and biomass within a reasonable amount of time in a natural environment. Note that just because something is marked as biodegradable, it requires certain conditions to do so. Landfills lack microorganisms and organisms required for waste to degrade. And if it’s disposed of inside another container or plastic bag, biodegradation may not occur in a timely fashion.

Compostable Bag: The EPA definition of compostable is an organic material that will decompose under a controlled biological process in the presence of air to form a humus-like material. Compostable products must biodegrade within a reasonable amount of time (a couple months) and produce no visible or toxic residues. Composting may occur in an industrial or municipal composting site or in a home composter.

Recyclable Bag: A bag that can be collected and reprocessed to produce new paper. Paper recycling involves mixing the used paper materials with water and chemicals to break them down into cellulose (an organic plant material). The pulp mixture is strained through screens to remove any adhesives or other contaminants and then de-inked or bleached so it can be made into new recycled paper. Check out this simple illustration from Earth Answers.

Recycled Paper Bag: A paper bag made from paper that has been used before and put through the recycling process. The percentage of post-consumer fibers means how much of the pulp used to make the paper has been used by a consumer. Examples of post-consumer materials are old magazines, mail, cardboard boxes, and newspapers. For most bag legislation, a minimum of 40% post-consumer recycled content is required to be compliant. Many paper bags manufactured in our facility are made with 100% post-consumer recycled material.

Is it better to recycle a paper bag, or to compost it?

Either option is acceptable but please, DON’T THROW IT IN THE TRASH! Unless they have been heavily contaminated with grease or oils from food, or are laminated with poly or foil, paper bags can be recycled to make new paper products or composted.

Recycling can have a larger-scale environmental impact than composting because there is generally greater access to recycling programs than to compost collection. Recycling also puts the bag back into the paper supply stream, reducing the need for need virgin fiber.  But composting or using bags as ground cover or weed barriers positively impacts the environment as well as it eliminates use of chemicals and plastics.

Before recycling or composting – don’t forget, paper bags are also reusable. They can be used to cover books, pack lunches, wrap gifts, create gift cards or notepads, or used as scrap paper.

How long does a paper bag take to biodegrade? How does that compare to other items?

This is an interesting statistic. Of course, how quickly something breaks down depends on the environment in which it must do so. Even fruit peels, which normally break down in just days won’t break down if put inside a plastic bag in a landfill because they won’t have adequate light, water, and bacterial activity required for the decay process to begin.

This chart we found at shows how long some common items take to biodegrade in a natural setting:

Biodegrade Chart

Visit their site to learn more about biodegradability and the science of how they measured the timeframes above. Factors that may affect how quickly a paper bag biodegrades include the thickness (or basis weight) of the paper and the environment in which it is expected to break down. Wetter, warmer conditions make for faster biodegradation.

Which paper bag is right for my company?

WCI offers many environmentally friendly packaging options as well as several that are bag ban compliant.


All paper merchandise bags and SOS bags manufactured at WCI are 100% recyclable and can be composted. We also offer many eco-friendly shipping bag options like the Eco-Natural mailer, which is made with 100% recycled fibers and can be composted as well.

Please visit our website or call our sales team if you’d like help selecting a bag that will effectively package your product.






Recycled Content on WCI Products

Current Recycled Content Information on WCI Products:

Recycled Natural Merchandise & SOS Bags
100% Recycled Content
(Minimum 40% Post-Consumer)

Recycled Natural Kraft Paper Bags

Bottom turnover printed on
Recycled Natural Kraft Paper Bags


Recycled Shipping Envelopes
& Mailing Bags

Eco-Shipper® Recycled Shipping Envelopes
Minimum 50% Recycled Content

Eco-Natural Recycled Kraft Shipping Envelopes
100% Recycled Content (Minimum 90% Post-Consumer)

Recycled Kraft Shipping Bags

Bottom turnover printed on
WCI shipping bags and recycled kraft mailers

100% Recycled Natural Bags from WCI – Compliant with Bag Legislation Nationwide

The number of Americans affected by plastic bag legislation continues to grow. Retailers and packaging distributors nationwide count on WCI for recycled paper single-use bags and eco-friendly shipping and mailing bags.

100% Recycled Natural Paper Bags
100% Recycled Natural Paper Bags from WCI

WCI stock and custom recycled natural merchandise and SOS bags meet or exceed the minimum 40% post-consumer requirements (many are made with 100% recycled kraft paper) and are 100% recyclable, biodegradable and compostable. We also offer handled shopping bags that are in full compliance with bag legislation. This is important to distributors located in areas impacted by these laws, but also to any retailer or distributor who sells online and/or services businesses requiring compliant bags.

To serve the growing number of retailers affected by bag legislation and to be compliant in areas requiring such information, WCI stocks bags imprinted with compliant bottom turnover logos on all recycled natural merchandise and SOS bags we produce. This bottom turnover information is printed on stock recycled natural and custom/printed recycled natural bags manufactured at our plant in Green Bay, WI.

All stock recycled natural product manufactured at WCI is be imprinted with the following on the bottom turnover:

Recycled Natural bags printed with Compliant Bottom Print
Recycled Natural bags printed with Compliant Bottom Print

For a full description of all products that meet single-use bag legislation requirements, please contact our sales team at 800-544-1935. They will be happy to discuss compliance requirements and how we can provide packaging solutions for your business.


For more information on bag legislation:


Wisconsin Converting, Inc. is located in Green Bay, WI and manufactures paper bags including merchandise bags, pharmacy bagsSOS bags, and hardware bags  for retail, foodservice and industrial customers nationwide. WCI also is a top provider of paper shipping and mailing bags for retail and e-commerce customers.


Can my bags be printed with soy ink?

Can my paper bags be printed with soy ink? As a manufacturer and printer of paper bags, we are often asked this question by clients who want to make their packaging as environmentally friendly as possible. WCI does not print our paper bags with soy or vegetable-based inks. Our bags are printed with water based inks. What’s the difference?
Colorful Printed Paper BagsYears ago, petroleum was the main vehicle for the pigment in printing inks. Starting in the 1980s, environmental restrictions caused printers to make changes and water based inks emerged. Today, as inks evolve, many commercial printing inks use water or vegetable oil to replace petroleum as a vehicle for the pigment in an effort to reduce or eliminate Volatile Organic Compounds (VOC’s). The vehicle used depends on the printing process.

Printed Paper Bag

Here are some important considerations when researching different types of ink:

Soy/Vegetable Based Inks:

  • While soy and vegetable inks are growing in popularity for offset lithographic printing of magazines, posters, folders, and other products they are not appropriate for use in flexographic printing processes.
  • Vegetable-based inks are often made from Chia, Flax (Linseed), Castor, Canola, Safflower, Soy, or a combination of any/all of them.
  • Here is an interesting link from TriplePundit with more information for customers considering soy based inks for their printed packaging or documents.

Water Based Inks:

  • Water-based flexographic printing inks are continuing to grow in popularity due to their low cost and environmentally friendly nature. They are used in the printing of packaging materials, paper bags, cardboard and other porous substrates.
  • Water is safe, stable and recoverable.
  • Water-based printing processes have been around for decades; they eliminate or reduce the use of petroleum-based solvents, which increase levels of VOC’s, toxic substances, and energy consumption.
  • Our water based flexographic inks are composed of approximately 50 percent water, have virtually zero VOC’s, Hazardous Air Pollutants (HAP’s), and contain no heavy metals.

Clients who consider ink ingredients an important factor in their buying decision should also take into account the recycle programs and inventory maintenance methods in place at a printer or manufacturer. At WCI, we take our commitment to the environment very seriously and have implemented measures to ensure that our ink is effectively utilized and recycled.

Ink Mixing Machine for Paper Bags

The WCI production facility has implemented LEAN manufacturing procedures and utilizes a SPEC ink mixing, dispensing, and storage system to more accurately calculate required ink and to reformulate work-off ink. Any ink not reformulated is mixed to black, entirely eliminating waste.

In summary, different printing processes require different vehicles for pigments in order for ink to transfer onto the desired substrate. Each process offers environmentally friendly options. Paper bags manufactured at WCI are printed with water based inks specifically made for flexographic printing. Our bags are recyclable, biodegradable and make an excellent choice for any business that makes the environment a priority when purchasing their packaging.


Wisconsin Converting, Inc. is located in Green Bay, WI and manufactures paper bags including merchandise bags, pharmacy bagsSOS bags, and hardware bags  for retail, foodservice and industrial customers nationwide. WCI also is a top provider of paper shipping and mailing bags for retail and e-commerce customers.

Choosing the Right Printed Bag for Your Business


You may not give it much thought, but there are actually several different ways to print a logo or promotional message on a paper bag. It can be frustrating for those without knowledge of bag manufacturing and printing to understand what can and cannot be printed on their packaging. Different printing methods have their own set of specifications and capabilities. Our resident manufacturing expert, Doug Frye, has been with WCI for nearly 30 years and is sharing his expertise to explain the differences.

“Each printing method has its own features, benefits, and requirements,” Frye says. “And each creates a solution that suits different types of businesses and their budgets.” For example, a small business may be looking to purchase just one case of a simple design for their growing business, while large retailers might have a large-volume project with complex screening and larger graphics.

WCI is a paper converting company. We employ three different methods of custom printing for large and small quantities for customers nationwide. Each provides a solution that’s ideal for different types of customers.

Bag: Custom printed popcorn bags from WCI
Popcorn bags printed using in-line flexography printing

In-line flexographic printing. Flexography is commonly used for printing in a large quantity, high-speed manner on flexible materials including paper bags, disposable cups, envelopes, labels, newspapers, and more. Flexographic printing utilizes fast-drying inks and flexible printing plates made of rubber or photopolymer (plastic). Plates are made with a raised image, similar to a rubber stamp, and are mounted on cylinders that rotate and transfer the image (customer logo, graphics, etc.) onto the substrate (paper). One plate is needed per color, as they are printed separately. This is important to consider when discussing multi-color graphics as the registration (or vertical placement of the graphics on the substrate) can vary in flexographic printing.

SOS Bag: Recycled Natural Kraft lunch bag printed with black ink
A photopolymer plate used to print on an SOS bag

According to Frye, “When designing multi-color graphics for flexographic printing, it’s important to take registration into account so the customer is happy with the end result.” For small businesses, or those without access to a graphic designer, our in-house graphics department is happy to make specific recommendations.

At WCI, paper bags are printed with water-based (water soluble) inks in up to four spot PMS colors during manufacturing on the machine. Large paper rolls are mounted at the beginning of the machine. The paper unwinds from the roll, runs through the machine where it is formed, folded, glued and cut off to form a bag. During that time the presses can imprint customers’ promotional message or logo.

“The benefits of flexographic printing on our bag converting machines include the ability to print multiple colors with complex graphics and screening, and a print area that includes nearly the entire bag because the printing is done before the paper is formed into a bag,” says Frye. “This is the major difference from post-printed and hot stamped bags, which are printed as part of a secondary operation.”

In-line flexographic printing is best suited for large-run printing, typically 5,000 bags or more. This method of printing allows for high-speed printing, allowing volume price breaks and a larger print area.

Post Printing

Don’t need 5,000 bags? No problem! Small businesses, wedding planners and promotional companies can take advantage of the small-quantity options available with post printed bags. Unlike in-line flexographic printing where an entire machine is set up to run a particular bag size and requires longer runs, a post-printing machine is easily adjusted to imprint an image or logo on an already manufactured bag, which means you can order quantities as low as 200 bags, depending on bag size.

This is a fantastic option for special events, home-based businesses, and companies that don’t have enough storage space for pallets of bags. They can order a minimal quantity and avoid large minimums orders and huge overall costs. There are limitations, however, to where graphics can be printed on the bag because seams and gussets need to be avoided.

“Post printing is a secondary process,” Frye explains. “So we have to work with the bag that’s already been produced. Handles, seams, and gussets are obstacles that have to be avoided in order for the print to be of decent quality.”

Handled Shopping Bags: One small quantity post printed bag, one printed in-line
Print areas differ when printing in-line or post-printing but both provide a high-quality customized bag.

Customers looking to order fewer than 5,000 bags can still have high-quality, custom printed bags with their logo or promotional message. Designing graphics can be a bit trickier for this method of printing, but there are plenty of benefits including cost, minimums, and lead time that make post-printed bags a viable solution.

Hot Stamping

For customers seeking specialty packaging with an upscale appearance, hot stamped bags are a brilliant option. Appreciated for their expensive look, bags with hot stamped logos are popular with jewelry stores, wineries, and boutiques – and are often used for weddings and special events looking to “wow” their guests.

“Hot stamping is unique in the way the graphics are applied to the bag,” says Frye. “Instead of printing with a printing plate, a metal die is stamped onto a sheet of metallic foil, causing the foil to release onto the paper.”

Bags: Custom foil hot stamped retail merchandise and shipping
Hot stamped shipping & merchandise bags

The result is that the customer logo has a glossy, very opaque appearance, even on dark-colored bags. Like post printing, the foil stamp is applied to bags that are already manufactured. Again, that means print area will be affected by handles, seams, and gussets.

Hot stamped bags are slightly more expensive than their ink-printed counterparts, but for businesses looking for a truly unique and elegant way to brand their packaging it is worth the additional cost to impress their patrons.

Wisconsin Converting, Inc. can offer many different options to help achieve quality personalized bags without sacking your budget. Call today for help ordering your custom printed paper bags – our packaging experts can help guide you through the process.

Click here to see printing templates for design purposes.

End User Spotlight: Pencils of Promise


Pencils of Promise

When traveling through India, Pencils of Promise (“PoP”) founder Adam Braun came across a young boy. When asked if he could have one thing in the world what it would be, the boy answered “a pencil.” The simple gift of a pencil opened a world of possibilities for that boy – and now others. One interaction sparked an idea to help solve a need for education worldwide.

PoP is a for-purpose organization founded in 2008 with the goal of increasing access to quality education for children in the developing world. PoP works with communities across the globe to build schools and create programs that provide educational opportunities for children, no matter where they were born or what resources they have.


To date, PoP has built over 325 schools and provided access to education to more than 33,000 students throughout Ghana, Guatemala, Laos and Nicaragua, establishing itself as a leader amongst the innovative global nonprofits working toward sustainable social change. Pencils of Promise is known as a school building organization that provides access to education, but is evolving into a learning organization focused on quality education outcomes. With a dynamic approach to ensure quality education through their programs, PoP is reshaping the landscape of education in the developing world.

Eco-Natural Shipping Bag
Pencils of Promise uses Eco-Natural Shipping Bags

PoP purchases Eco-Natural shipping bags through a distributor and uses them to ship fundraising merchandise including t-shirts, sweatshirts, and books.


According to Olivia Wittels and Adam Ho, both on PoP’s Marketing team, PoP chose to use 100% recycled Eco-Naturals because of the recycled content, recyclability, and because the natural appearance aligns with their brand.


WCI is proud to manufacture bags that are helping this wonderful organization make a difference in the lives of children all over the world. To learn more about PoP or to find out how you can help support their efforts, visit the PoP website or follow them on FacebookTwitter, or Instagram.

Packaging Speaks – What Does Yours Say?

When is a paper bag more than a paper bag? When it becomes part of your customer’s buying experience! Think about it. If a customer purchased your carefully crafted product and carries it out in an ordinary plastic “t-shirt” bag you would get at a convenience store, it not only doesn’t promote your business – it sends the message that the product inside the bag is nothing special.

Now picture a customer leaving your store with a bag professionally printed with your brand colors, logo, and contact information. You’ve not only made that customer feel that they’ve purchased something special but given them a way to pass along your marketing message, website, and phone number to prospective clients. Suddenly custom-printed bags are not an expense – they’re an investment!


Printed Merchandise and Handled Shopping Bags
Post-Printed Merchandise and Handled Shopping bags from WCI

When customers walk out of your store with their goods, they’re carrying your image in their hands. Use the opportunity to let them feel proud of their purchase, and spread the word to potential customers. This is especially true for small – or new – businesses. Printing your logo and brand message on your packaging is a practical and cost-effective way to reinforce your marketing efforts.

Selecting the right size.

WCI is a trusted manufacturer of quality paper packaging products that will fit the bill for retail customers seeking a coordinated packaging effort from one dedicated, reliable source. One-case minimums and large volume pricing options on custom printed paper bags and shipping bags give our customers the opportunity to get the right size bag for the job.

Custom Printed Paper Bags
Printed Handled Shopping and Merchandise Bags from WCI


Often times, more than one bag size is necessary for stores and eateries and we have a number of solutions that will fit the bill. Sometimes a small pinch-bottom merchandise bag or a square-bottom SOS bag will be suitable for small orders; other times a larger handled shopping bag is necessary to carry the load. Our team coordinates ink, paper, and handle colors to ensure a graphically coordinated packaging appearance between all bag types and sizes.


Brick-and-mortar stores that ship product directly to consumers may also require printed mailers that will match their brand identity while delivering products in a safe and attractive package. We’ve got a solution for that too!

100% recycled packaging options
Kraft is the new black! 100% recycled handled shopping bags and Eco-Natural shipping bags

A responsible choice.

Coordinated packaging campaigns with low minimums mean you can order several sizes and types of bags in order to properly fit the product. That means using less material and wasting less packaging and void fill. In addition to sensible packaging efforts – you’ll be glad to know that we’ve taken our commitment to the environment most seriously.

White and kraft handled shopping bags are a packaging solution suited for even the most environmentally-conscious businesses. Manufactured with high-content, post-consumer and FSC© certified papers, they’re made to meet and exceed municipal regulations. And of course, they’re 100% recyclable, reusable, and biodegradable.

Paired with 100% recycled natural merchandise bags, SOS bags, or Eco-Natural mailers, your handled shopping bags will complete your packaging portfolio.

You’ve worked hard to make a quality product and build a positive brand image – let WCI help you spread the word. Packaging has been called a “walking billboard” – call it whatever you want – but make sure you call WCI to get started!

Sweet Valentine’s Day Packaging Ideas from WCI

Christmas sales have ended and many retailers are looking to kick off the New Year with strong sales in January and February. As soon as the “Big Guy” rides off in his sleigh, retailers are stocking the shelves with cupids and candies and hearts. Valentine’s Day has become a significant retail holiday, bringing in a record high of nearly $19 billion in 2015. If your inquiring mind wants to know, here is a breakdown we found for Valentine’s Day sales on popular romantic gifts:

  • $52.2 million – Flowers
  • $50 million – Jewelry
  • $38.3 million – Apparel/Clothing
  • $18.6 million – Specialty Gifts
  • $7.1 million – Restaurants
  • $1.2 million – Salons and Spas

Want more Valentine’s Day statistics? Check out this link.

All of those industries use bags to package their cards, jewelry, and other small items. And our colorful, stock paper merchandise bags and SOS bags can still ship in time for retailers to receive them for holiday sales.

Record sales means that, now more than ever, retailers need to ramp up their packaging supply in January. Unlike Christmas where consumers may spend time researching and purchasing items online, Valentine’s Day sales are often done at the local level and may be last-minute purchases from small businesses who utilize small paper bags and handled shopping bags.

Valentine Bags

When it comes to Valentine’s Day packaging, many retail and food-service businesses utilize our colorful, well-constructed paper bags ready for printing or foil stamping. Many small retailers, Etsy retailers, candy shops and bakeries buy plain bags and hand stamp or decorate them for a personal touch. For larger retailers doing special promotions during the weeks leading up to Valentine’s Day (or any time of year), WCI offers small-quantity personalized bags printed and foil stamped paper bags in a variety of shapes and sizes.

Customers can still order festive paper bags in time for Valentine’s Day treats and gifts. Popular choices for this romantic holiday include:

  • Paper Merchandise and SOS bags for jewelry shops, boutiques, and retail shops.
  • Colorful paper bags in traditional Valentine’s colors like petal pink, wild rose, cream, purple, and red. Studies have shown that nearly 65% of shoppers believe that holiday candy and gifts should feature seasonal packaging colors (like red or pink).
  • Grease-resistant and attractive gourmet bags for soaps, candies, cookies and baked goods.
  • Hot stamped or printed bags in quantities as low as one case.
  • We also offer attractive Paper mailers for online retailers and stores who ship product to loved ones across the miles.

From one case to truckloads, WCI can provide attractive and cost-effective packaging options for any size retailer or food service customer. Call our customer service team today at 800-544-1935 to find out how you can still have bags in time for Valentine’s Day sales.

Get your holiday packaging in the bag!

Creating festive, coordinated holiday packaging that promotes your brand has never been easier. Regardless of quantity, Wisconsin Converting can manufacture custom printed or hot stamped paper bags for online and brick-and-mortar stores. From local retailers preparing for Small Business Saturday to online merchants who want to save on their shipping costs, our low minimums and reliable service make WCI the preferred manufacturer for holiday packaging.

Christmas Bags from WCI

Choose from our wide selection of options for your branded holiday packaging:

  1. Pre-Printed Thrifty Prints

For retailers not yet ready to make the jump into custom-printed packaging but looking for a stylish paper bag customers will notice, Thrifty Prints are an ideal solution. Simply order the size(s) you desire and you will receive a random selection of tasteful designs. Thrifty Prints are perfect for small retailers, boutiques, jewelry stores, flower stores, and gift shops. What’s best is that they’re in stock and available for immediate shipment. It’s never been easier, or more affordable, to get fashionable packaging!

  1. Small Quantity Hot Stamped Merchandise and Gift Bags

What are the holidays without a little shimmer? WCI manufactures and stocks hundreds of sizes and colors of pinch bottom and square bottom gift and merchandise bags that are available hot stamped. Dress up a stock colored bag for the holidays with a metallic hot stamp logo. When customers make a purchase at your store, give them an elegant handled shopping bag with a little extra pizazz. Hot stamped paper bags are popular with jewelry stores, gift shops, and clothiers who choose unique and upscale packaging as part of their branding.

  1. More than a bag. Give them a gift!

When customers leave your store with their purchases this holiday season, why not give them a gift that’s ready to give? Printed bags with festive holiday designs and, of course, your logo are a perfect way to get your message out there and save your customers time. Busy holiday shoppers (especially the men!), will appreciate the extra effort to make the packaging special.

Wrap their items in holiday tissue, place a pretty ribbon around it and put it in a paper bag that’s truly part of the gift itself. WCI manufactures bags in a variety of holiday-appropriate colors. Choose from red, forest green, lime green, white, and recycled natural kraft. Retailers in areas regulated by paper bag legislation can count on us for recycled natural kraft bags that are 100% recycled and meet all disposable bag requirements.

  1. Small Quantity Post Printed Merchandise and Gift Bags

One-case minimums on post-printed merchandise and SOS bags make WCI the supplier of choice for holiday promotional bags. Savvy retailers appreciate the cost savings and convenience of low minimums; you don’t have to purchase thousands of bags printed with designs only utilized for a short time. Mix it up a little – order a few different designs, change the ink color, or print a few different colors of bags to give your holiday packaging a unique twist.

  1. Custom Printed Shipping Bags

Online holiday shopping is growing each year – and the importance of providing customers with an “experience” when they receive their shipment is making a difference in how customers perceive online gift giving. E-retailers can give customers something to look forward to when they open their mailbox! With printed shipping bags from WCI, you can deliver the goods – and your brand message to their doorstep. Choose from Eco-Natural 100% recycled natural kraft mailers, Eco-Shipper® recycled white mailers, or reinforced Dura-Bag® shippers. Many popular sizes are in stock and available for post-printing, hot stamping or, for larger quantities, flexographic printing.

Call WCI today for more information on stock, custom printed, or hot stamped bags. Ordering today will ensure arrival in time for holiday sales and promotions.