One of the “most overused marketing phrases” of 2009 was “green”, according to several advertising and marketing sources. It seemed like everywhere you turned, everything was GREEN! Don’t expect this bragging war to be over anytime soon. The ‘swagger’ wars have just begun – each product industry claims why what they have is better than the next guy. There are even battles to fight inside the industry, such as which plastic product is better than another plastic product. This makes sense though, since over 80% of consumers expect their product to be affiliated with sustainable material in efforts to be environmentally friendly. So if you’re not already looking into eco-friendly solutions, now is a good time to investigate alternatives!
Recently, California’s Department of Toxic Substances Control (DTSC) issued new rules that may go into effect very soon. These new rules would stipulate which chemical ingredients in products that may pose a health or environmental concern. The DTSC could potentially require companies to submit specific product details for review, including data on safety and sustainability for recycling. The DTSC seems to be keeping the lines of communication open during this review process, offering ‘alternatives assessments’, which is commendable!
Plastics have gotten a lot of heat. Recently, Kellogg’s recalled 28 types of cereal which resulted in 1.7 million instances of off-flavoured cereal. That is sure to wake you up in the morning! (“Kellogg said a “slightly elevated” level of a substance commonly present at very low levels in the FDA-approved waxy resins in packaging materials was responsible for the off-flavours and odours in four types of its breakfast snacks.”).
From Kellogg’s recalls to California’s Department of Toxic Substances Control (DTSC) crack-down, we are sure to have more ‘unrest’ with the plastics industry. BUT, let’s compare that with the paper industry.
There are different production methods used in both the printing industry and the polypropylene industry. Each industry COULD make a change and ethically and responsibility produce goods. For instance, in the printing industry there is an alternative way to produce paper or labels which is environmentally desirable; there are sustainably managed forests which essentially “recycle” by re-pulping the old paper in order to manufacture new paper. As we know, companies do not always opt for the most eco-friendly.
Paper production involves a large amount of water, and makes use of toxic chemicals. Thus, the chemicals that mills located on waterways use contaminate the water. According to the US Energy Information Agency, the paper industry releases about 212 million tons of hazardous substances into the air and water. “These amounts are comparable to the U.S. primary metal industry — and are ranked as the third largest user of industrial water.” (http://www.secret-life.org/paper/paper_environment.php#Q8 , 2010). Though most paper mills have attempted to become more eco-conscious by generating the power from wood wastes for the manufacturing process, “U.S. government figures show that pulp and paper manufacturers are the fourth largest industrial emitters of greenhouse gases”. (http://www.eia.doe.gov/emeu/efficiency/carbon_emissions/carbon_mfg.html)
Take a look at these paper-recycling facts:
• Paper bags generate 70% more air and 50 times more water pollutants than plastic bags
• Paper bags use 84 times as much energy to recycle compared to a plastic bag
Even if you recycle, the outcome is still questionable. Unlike paper, the most harmful aspect of polypropylene (plastic) is not the production, but rests on the consumers’ responsibility to recycle. Also, because of the durable nature of plastics, they are able to withstand high temperatures or other environmental conditions. There are more uses for polypropylene, and on average it has a lifespan of 12 years. (http://timeforchange.org/plastic-bags-and-plastic-bottles-CO2-emissions ). I would like to see a paper bag last that long!
Here is a helpful link which shows how well both paper and plastic are recycles: http://www.recycling-revolution.com/recycling-facts.html . According to this, Americans use 2,500,000 plastic bottles every hour! [BUT] most of them are thrown away!
As far as polypropylene labels, there are safe ways to print on plastic labels. For instance, the process that Vibrant Graphics use to produce polypropylene labels reduces the amount of scrap (we have less than 3 %!). It takes less material to calibrate our press and our process is geared towards shorter runs which encourages the use of less overall material. We also recycle the little waste that we do produce in order to reduce our carbon footprint. Finally, our inks do not contain any hazardous chemicals and are water-based.
For this round, I’m going to say that plastics kicked paper out of the arena. Now, the question is, which plastics’ packaging solution is best?