Getting sustainable and sturdy with your bags

It’s become increasingly common to see personalised jute bags on UK high streets and elsewhere. The bags convey a certain kind of aesthetic: they’re chunky and noticeable, suggesting a practical and sturdy image. For many businesses, this can ally well with a brand identity that’s focused on organic or artisanal products. 

What’s more, the bags’ durability means that they can be used by customers for years without wearing out. At a time when a great premium is placed on sustainability, this is a quality that many more customers will take into consideration. 

But what are jute bags made from? And how sustainable really are they? Here at ICON we’re experts in printed and customised bags, printing bags of various materials for a whole range of clients. Below is our guide to the basics in personalised jute bags. 

So what actually is jute?

The material used in jute bags is a natural vegetable fibre made from the jute plant, a woody crop that’s mostly grown in India and Bangladesh. Using the plant’s skin and outer stem, it makes for a sturdy, durable material, and for this reason is also used to make ropes and burlap sacks. 

Is it sustainable?

It’s difficult to definitively say how sustainable any material or product is, as there are often several factors at play. With both cotton tote bags and jute bags, many would argue that it depends on how much the end consumer actually uses the bag.

It’s all well and good if they’re sturdy and reusable, the argument goes, but if they just sit in a cupboard after one outing, then a single-use plastic bag would be comparatively more sustainable, as fewer resources have been used to create something that’s had the same amount of usage.

Okay, so is it a sustainable choice if the bags are re-used?

Broadly speaking, yes. There are several qualities which can be used to make a case for jute as a great material for sustainable reusable bags. Firstly, the crops take up a relatively small amount of land to grow and harvest (with harvesting possible in the same place as where it’s grown). Second, it grows in tropical areas, and so relies mostly on rainfall and doesn’t require significant amounts of water. Additionally, as anyone who’s seen a jute bag can attest, it’s a seriously sturdy material, and so will last a long time despite any knocks or heavy usage.

How does the printing process work?

Due to the coarseness and thickness of the material, screen printing is the only way we would recommend that you print on jute bags. As with the screen printing process generally, this means that there are more set-up costs than with direct to garment (DTG) printing (read more on that here), but that it’s usually cheaper if you print a greater number of units.

Will my design be suitable?

In general, designs for screen printing need to be relatively simple and not overly intricate. (For a breakdown of the history and mechanics of the process, head here.) When it comes to jute bags, there’s an even greater need for simplicity. Because of the coarse nature of the material, it’s best to use designs that are big and blocky, with nothing involving too fine lines. Depending on the thickness of the material you want to use, it may also only be possible to use one colour.

Want to print jute bags or other sustainable merch for your business? ICON Printing offer fast turnaround printing with an emphasis on providing sustainable and eco-friendly options. We count clients ranging from the Tate to Boiler Room and WeWork. Get a quote in 2 minutes online.