Friday, April 03, 2009

What's In Your Paper Packaging?

by Dogwood Alliance for the Paper Planet

People don’t generally make a point of counting the number of items they throw away per day, much less conduct an inventory of what goes into the trash. If you did happen to keep a journal about your waste-disposal habits, it’s a safe bet to assume that the majority of it is paper or plastic, and that most that was at one point a wrapper or container for something else entirely.

We as a society aren’t really trained to consider the environmental repercussions of what we choose to purchase and consume, but if we were, reality might be a little different. As it is, over 50 percent of the trees chopped down to make paper in the United States each year become not a usable item we buy, but the packaging for it.

The Dogwood Alliance, one among a coalition of environmental conservation groups, has already begun to tackle one of the worst culprits of wasteful packaging: the fast food industry. You may have already wondered about the excessive volume of packaging that certain fast food establishments tend to use, but what about the materials in that packaging’s origins?

Major fast food companies—Wendy’s, KFC, Pizza Hut, and Taco Bell, to name a few—employ paper packaging which comes straight from natural forests, rather than post-consumer recycled products or Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) certified material. The price for convenience results in rapidly disappearing endangered forests, the introduction of toxic chemicals and pesticides into the ecosystem, and increasing rates of greenhouse gas emissions, to name a few.

The Dogwood Alliance’s aim in combating this problem is to actively work with the fast food companies to change environmentally irresponsible practices and provide readily available alternatives for packaging, including an overall reduction in packaging. Through this, Dogwood’s hope is that these restaurants will cease to purchase paper products from the environmentally unfriendly suppliers and convert to products which don’t waste a tree simply to wind up in already too prolific landfills. Switching from virgin fibers to recycled boxboard, as well as maximizing the use of paper products, is both a cheaper and healthier option—even if the container holds a double bacon cheeseburger.

So the next time you’re at the drive-thru window, stop and consider not only what is in your wallet, or what’s in your belly, but also what’s in your paper packaging! Visit “No Free Refills (for our forests)” to learn more.

Editors Note: This is the seventh installment in an 8 week "What's In Your Paper?" series on the Paper Planet focusing on specific sectors of the paper industry or paper from specific Endangered Forest regions. Subscribe or check back each Wednesday for a new posting in this series.

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