Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Time for Michelle Obama to bin that catalog!

A mail order fashion company that recently attracted Michelle Obama has ranked bottom in a study of paper wasters. The First Lady was spotted ordering a Boden catalogue on a recent visit to the UK. However, Boden has just scored zero points and has been labelled 'waster' in a project assessing UK companies for their willingness to address paper efficiency. If Mrs Obama wants to look good today, she needs to send her Boden catalogue to be recycled and ask the company to stop sending out junk mail.

The Shrink project has published a scorecard of the Winners and Wasters in the Paper Chase. It ranks 20 major UK companies on the efficiency of their paper use. Top of the pack is financial company Standard Life, with catalogue retailers Boden and Freemans at the bottom.

The scorecard shows that some financial companies and magazine publishers are taking up the challenge to cut paper use with great enthusiasm. The Shrink project website show-cases some of the ways these companies have found to save paper.

However, catalogue companies perform woefully, seeming to be completely uninterested in reducing their junk mail volumes, even though this would save them money and could improve their image. Boden and Freemans were the least responsive of all the companies approached by the project.

The American First Lady's interest in Boden scored the company a frenzy of media coverage and free advertising as fashion pundits pondered what clothes she might order. This was a public relations boon for the company, which is usually associated in Britain with the right wing of society, selling clothes popular with Conservative politicians. Today Mrs Obama has another reason to question whether dressing from Boden would be sending the right message to her admirers.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Greenpeace Tissue Guide Now iPhone App

Greenpeace announces today the release of an iPhone application for its popular “Recycled Tissue and Toilet Paper Guide.” The tool gives consumers a quick and easy way to choose the greenest toilet paper, tissues, paper towels, and paper napkins sold at the supermarket.

Features of the application include:
• The ability to quickly compare household paper brands while in the grocery store;
• A list of environmentally preferable tissue, toilet paper, paper towel and paper napkin brands.
• Brand specific information including the percentage of recycled content, the percentage of post-consumer content, and the bleaching method.

The guide gives a thumbs-up to Green Forest, Natural Value and Seventh Generation, while recommending that shoppers avoid products like Kleenex, Charmin, Angel Soft, Cottonelle, Brawny, and Scott.

“Customers who download the iPhone or Android version of the Greenpeace Recycled Tissue and Toilet Paper Guide can compare brands available at their local grocery store to find which brands are most environmentally sustainable,"said Greenpeace Forest Campaigner Lindsey Allen.

Friday, May 08, 2009

Washington State Gets Lean and Goes Green with New Paper Law

This week, Washington State continued its leadership in environmentally responsible procurement, reducing government waste and spurring creative green economic recovery efforts with a big announcement. Governor Chris Gregoire (pictured) signed the paper recycling and conservation act, sponsored in the 2009 legislative session by Reps. Lynn Kessler and Kevin Van De Wege, which directs state government to:

  • Reduce printing and copy paper use by at least 30 percent, beginning no later than July 1, 2010.
  • Purchase 100 percent recycled content paper for printing and copying by Dec. 31, 2009.
  • Recycle 100 percent of copy and printing paper in all buildings with 25 employees or more.
  • Restrict future leases or purchases of printers and copiers to models that will efficiently use 100 percent recycled content white sheet bond paper.
  • Give priority to purchasing from companies that produce paper in facilities powered by a renewable energy source.

"This new law is a win for the state of Washington," said Washington Gov. Chris Gregoire, when signing the bill into law. "It saves money for taxpayers while reducing waste. In addition, it encourages innovation and job growth. With a growing market for recycled paper products, our Washington paper mills will create living-wage jobs to produce the paper products we need in today's world."

The Department of Ecology (Ecology) estimates that the increased paper conservation and recycling requirements will save state taxpayers about $1 million per year. According to the agency's waste reduction experts, the increased cost of purchasing 100 percent recycled paper can be offset by setting printers to double-sided printing and by paper conservation efforts.

The additional high-quality white office paper collected due to this bill will provide material for manufacturers of recycled printing and writing paper in the state and help create jobs.

What are you waiting for? What's in your paper?

Thursday, May 07, 2009

UK's & US's Paper Recycling May End Up In Landfill Afterall...

The UK's and US's easy paper recycling solution of shipping much of it to China appears to be coming to an end sparking fears, with some evidence, that much of the paper collected for recycling will end up in landfill after all reports Ethical Corporation: "Export orders to China are down as cash-strapped consumers and businesses in the west buy less. Consequently, Chinese manufacturers are reducing their output or going to the wall as the orders slow. Less packaging is needed. Prices for recycled paper peaked in August 2008 and have since dropped by 50-70%. The days of paper that can be recycled fetching $100 a tonne are gone (and the one time market peak of $200 a distant memory). Prices are down to as low as $28 a tonne for mixed paper, $40 for newspaper and $35 a tonne for corrugated boxes.

This means prices are falling below what it costs to collect and ship the waste paper from the west. At present, only the paper collected near port towns and not requiring the additional cross-country trucking is economical … and then only just. This means targets for recycling set by the industry and government in Europe and the US are becoming harder to meet... Unable to sell it or find local recyclers, there is a risk that many western collectors of waste will end up tipping it into landfills. That is reportedly already happening, sparking anger among environmentally conscious western consumers who diligently sift their waste in the hope they are helping to protect the environment... The US has the same problem. California was a major shipper of waste paper, as well as card, metal and other products to China, but demand, and consequently prices, are significantly down. California’s waste collectors cannot sell their waste and cannot afford to warehouse it, so they are using landfills."

Perhaps what we need are some recycling facilities at home, rather like all the ones we've been shutting down recently perhaps...?

Wednesday, May 06, 2009

Whole Foods First National Retailer to Use FSC Certified, 100% Recycled Bags

Whole Foods Market announced just before Earth Day this year that it is the first national retailer to offer Forest Stewardship Council (FSC)-certified paper bags at its checkout counters beginning in May.

“Whole Foods Market is thrilled to set the bar even higher in terms of reducing our environmental impact with paper bags that close the loop with 100 percent post-consumer reclaimed material,” said Michael Besancon, Whole Foods Market Senior Global Vice President of Purchasing, Distribution, and Marketing. “The chain-of-custody that our paper bags have attained means these bags can be tracked throughout the supply chain - from post-consumer waste through processing and distribution to the shopper toting home groceries, all the while reducing pressure on virgin forests and protecting biodiversity.”

Previously, Whole Foods Market was the first national retailer to offer 100 percent recycled (60 percent post-industrial/40 percent post-consumer) paper bags at its checkouts. FSC certification on paper bags made from 100 percent post-consumer reclaimed material is another first for the natural and organic foods retailer. Post-consumer reclaimed material typically comes from corrugated boxes that might have held food or other products that have been shipped to various retail outlets. This repurposing is important in a country that is the biggest market for paper products globally, producing 90 million tons of paper and consuming 100 million tons of paper each year, according to the FSC.

Whole Foods Market continues to offer shoppers who bring their own bags a refund of either five or 10 cents at the checkouts, depending on the store, and estimates that reusable bag use has tripled since the Company banned plastic bags from its checkouts last year with approximately 150 million bags being kept out of landfills and our environment. Whole Foods Market sells a variety of reusable bags, ranging from the stylish, affordable “A Better Bag” - 79 and 99 cents, depending on size - with 80 percent of its content coming from recycled plastic bottles and currently featuring a Sheryl Crow-created charcoal sketch of a tree to the $29.99 cotton and burlap FEED 100 bag. A FEED bag purchase helps provide 100 nutritious lunches to hungry Rwandan school children through the United Nations World Food Program’s School Feeding Program.

Additionally, Whole Foods Market partnered this month with Mohawk Fine Papers to be the first national retailer to create all of its nationally produced, in-store Earth Month materials using “third-generation” closed-loop recycled paper. This means that the Company is using marketing material overages from the previous year, which were printed on paper made from 100 percent post-consumer waste, sent to a de-inker, made into pulp and sent back to the same paper mill that produced it, to be recycled anew into this year’s Earth Month materials. All aspects of the third-generation closed-loop process have occurred domestically, eliminating the need to ship pulp out of the country and back again, which is currently the norm.

According to Whole Foods, this process has preserved 192 trees and has prevented more than 9,000 pounds of solid waste and close to 20,000 pounds of greenhouse gases from entering our environment.

Friday, May 01, 2009

A Backwards Bailout for International Paper

Remember when we had all that public debate, national heartburn and those hearings and then finally a careful decision to provide billions of dollars of taxpayer bailout in 2009 to United States paper companies and provide investment dollars to retool them to compete in the 21st century, international economy, and to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and help save civilization from climate change?

Oh wait, that was the auto industry. We never did that for the paper industry at all.

Hold up. They aren't getting a bailout too are they?

Um, actually....yup, a big one.

Most people, including most of Congress, have no idea that when IP released its quarterly earnings yesterday, fully $330 million (USD) of their reported after tax income was a new, direct cash payment compliments of US taxpayers. Smurfit-Stone, who just paid $47 million in bonuses to its executives, and angered its sacrificing workers, is also going to be getting some of the same type of corporate welfare checks this year as well. A couple handfuls of the other large paper companies will too, amounting to at a minimum $3 billion if it is allowed to continue to the end of the year. Anyone got any extra $3 billion laying around to fund this?

How did they do it? Quite craftily, some consultants found an alternative fuels tax credit in a transportation bill which they could technically, but quite genuinely qualify for, and thereby claim 50 cents (USD) a gallon in tax rebates for every gallon of a certain type of fuel they burn and have for many years burned to save money, a waste product of chemical pulping called black liquor. They burn a lot of it. Now Pandora's box has been opened by International Paper and Verso (Bloomberg says Verso could also get $240 million this year in what they term a "boondoggle") as they were the first to claim the check from taxpayers. Now every company that burns black liquor is adding diesel, filing with the IRS as an "alternative fuel mixer" and putting their hand out also for a check.

Well, who's not getting free money for making paper? Unfortunately, its recycled paper mills, and groundwood (such as newsprint) mills, who can't wiggle through the tax loophole being exploited for this bailout. The products produced at recycled mill makes are like the plug-in and hybrid cars of the paper world.

Well, surely that is going towards needed capital investments in modernization and energy efficient technology which will ensure we have progess on the dual challenges of climate change and job creation, right? Nope, actually it wasn't even intended for them according to legislators. It was a modest program to increase biofuel use in automotive vehicles originally, but there was a loophole big enough for a paper mill to fit through it, but only ones that were the right "shape," or type actually. And unfortunately, the "shape" of those mills is the relative equivalent to that of a Hummer in the auto world.

In his press conference on the 100th day in office, President Obama said, in response to a question about the taxpayer assistance to the auto industry,

"We have a circumstance in which a bad recession compounded some great weaknesses already in the auto industry, and it was my obligation, and continues to be my obligation, to make sure that any taxpayer dollars that are in place to support the auto industry are aimed not at short-term fixes that continue these companies as wards of the state, but rather institutes the kind of restructuring that allows them to be strongly competitive in the future."
He could and should have been talking about the paper industry with this statement. The current bailout via this tax loophole simply makes paper companies dependent on the goverment checks while providing no "retooling" or investment to compete. It is without vision, and fails to invest in solutions. It simple raises short term earnings and stock prices and though it may retain some jobs temporarily, what happens at the end of the year, when nothing has changed at the companies. International competition will still be fierce, consumer demand will continue to grow for recycled and other low carbon papers, our U.S. paper manufacturing infrastructure will further deteriorate and shed jobs, and where will our U.S. paper industry be then? Will these companies be able to look their workers and U.S. taxpayers in the eye and say they did their part in acheiving the fundamental changes necessary? Or will they come back and ask to continue being "wards of the state" and seek to receive more taxpayer welfare?

Mr. President, right now, our taxpayer dollars are being taken no strings attached by some paper companies which are unequivocally not meeting this bar, and are in fact backsliding on their fossil fuel usage. The outrage over this issue is growing. It is time for your Administration and Congress to act swiftly to safeguard taxpayer money and close this loophole now. It must cease the unintended consequences of this loophole, including the negative impact this will have on the businesses and their thousands of workers making recycled paper and packaging.