Plastic Gift Bags and Shopping Bags FAQ

What do I need to know about buying plastic bags?

The size, shape, type and material of the plastic bag need to be considered when choosing a bag. Ask about size customisation, the range of standard sizes, whether the bags have a straight top or a curved top and if they are available with or without a gusset.

Choose whether you prefer soft and glossy (low-density), such as boutique fashion bags, crisp and light (high-density), such as supermarket bags or thick see-through bags (high-density frosted).

Handles vary from die cut to flexible soft loop and patch reinforced with crisp handles to single bag handles.
Clear, black and bright non see-through colours are available, as is patterns and custom logos with a frosted or matte finish.

What are plastic bags made of?

 The main material is Polyethylene (PE) which is a plastic polymer extracted from non-renewable fossil fuels (oil). It takes 1kg of oil makes about 600 grams of plastic.
The small resin beads used to make plastic bags can be melted and extrude into a plastic tube that is then converted into bags. Break throughs in technology have seen the production of polyethylene from renewable resources such as sugar cane.

How do you get different types of plastic bags?

 You can convert polyethylene into a variety of varying density plastics such as HDPE, MDPE, LDPE and degradable EPI. Each of these materials have different properties, which suits a variety of uses.

What are HDPE plastic carry bags? 

 High-density polyethylene (HDPE) are cheap, strong, and durable. HDPE bags are tear resistant, non-biodegradable and stronger than LDPE bags. Lightweight, checkout-style bags can be made from recycled materials. Typical examples of these bags are supermarket singlet bags, produce bags and rubbish bin liners. This material is crisp, frosted and milky in colour. They are not environmentally friendly, so recycling these bags is important. The thickness of HDPE plastic bags ranges from a minimum of 15 micron to a maximum of 70 micron.

What are LDPE plastic shopping bags? 

Low-density polyethylene (LDPE) shopping bags are flexible, tough, and heavy. LDPE bags are highly tear-resistant, stretchy, recyclable and quite often transparent. Typical examples of LDPE bags are fashion retail shopping bags, bread bags, garbage bags, and shrink-wrap or stretch film. They are easy to colour and print on for boutique and department stores. The thickness of LDPE bags ranges from a minimum of 25 micron to a maximum of 150 micron.

What are MDPE plastic shopping bags? 

Medium density polyethylene (MDPE) are medium density bags that are usually soft and glossy unlike HDPE that are crisp and matte.

What are the features of each type of plastic bag?

High-density plastic bags are strong, light and cost-effective. These bags come in full bright colours and can be custom printed with your corporate colours. HDPE are usually singlet bags with soft loop or die cut handles. Curve tops are another feature.

Low-density plastic carry bags have a classy gloss finish and are available in strong vibrant colours. They can be custom printed with the brand or logo. Handle options include die cut or patch reinforced.

Frosted plastic bags are high-density, which means they are semi-transparent. These popular bags are perfect for gift and retail stores, trade shows, salons or fashion shops. Frosted bags are lightweight and usually feature soft loop or die cut handles. Curve tops are also available with die cut handles.

What is a biodegradable plastic bag? 

Biodegradable plastic bags will break down and revert to their natural state. Plastic made from plant-based materials and not oil by-products is biodegradable. This plastic is 100% biodegradable and recyclable. Typical biodegradable bags are ’compostable bags’, which break down within 6 months.

What are EPI degradable plastic shopping bags? 

Oxo-degradable plastic bags are made of plastic that has a special additive called EPI included. EPI degradable plastic bags are made from oil by-products. They contain metal compounds to help breakdown the plastic bag. Over 18 to 60 months, the EPI compound combined with light and heat break the plastic down into small fragments. These fragments are more suitable for landfill and are more environmentally conscious than regular plastic bags.

How is the thickness of a plastic bag measured?

Plastic film thickness can be measured in microns. Note: 1 micron equal to 1000th of a metre. The symbol for micron is “um” e.g. 50um = 50 micron. Typical thicknesses used for plastic bags are:

Minimum 15 micron – supermarket singlet bags, check out bags, takeaway shopping bags
20 to 30 micron – Clear LDPE bags for bread, packing and mailing bags
30 to 40 micron - Heavy duty garbage bags
40 to 50 micron – Press-seal bags, retail carry bags
50 to 75 micron – Bags for frozen food
75 to 90 micron - Medium to large boutique and department store carry bags
75 to 100 micron - Heavy duty industrial bags used to pack fertilisers and potting mixes
100 – 150 micron - Ultra heavy duty bags used for building supplies

Note: South Australia and the Australian Capital Territory have banned the use of plastic shopping bags.