SEPTEMBER/OCTOBER 2012 VOLUME 128, NO. 4.
by John O'Brien, Managing Editor
A decade ago I never would have thought the
environmental lobby would be pushing for,
among other things, a return to paper products.
It may be that the alternatives in place
today are simply more of a problem for the
environment than their paper-based counterparts,
and it just might be that the industryís
growing voice to educate consumers about
the stuff it makes is finally getting through.
Take for example foam cups. According
to the Environmental Protection Agency,
Americans throw away 25 billion plastic
foam cups a year, and each one would take
more than 500 years to break down.
In the town of Brookline, Mass., voters
this November will decide on whether or
not the town will ban local businesses from
using foam cups and containers. Although
Brookline hasnít mandated the use of a
specific alternative, I would have to imagine
coffee shops would have to switch to paper
cups and restaurants would have to opt for
paper-based ďto-goĒ containers.
Itís the polystyrene foam that everyone is
up in arms about, and not just in Brookline.
Portland, Oregonís City Council in June
voted unanimously to direct its Transportation,
Sustainability and Energy Committee
to create an ordinance to ban sales of plastic
foam. The council would have to approve
the ordinance before it could take effect.
The Portland City Councilor who sponsored
the initiative said the proposal was inspired
by Portlandís school district, which in
September stopped using foam trays, cups
and containers in its cafeterias.
In California, the Los Angeles Unified
School District (LAUSD), the second biggest
school district in the nation, during the last
week in August announced a plastic foam
ban on all products throughout the district.
The decision was prompted by school kids
in an Environmental Studies Magnet program
at a Los Angeles-area middle school
who constructed a foam ďmonsterĒ from
the roughly 1,500 foam lunch trays that are
thrown away on a typical day.
After three years of pushing parents to
help and lobbying to members of the school
committee, the kidsí efforts convinced the
LAUSD to make a change, and the District is
switching to paper-based lunch trays.
Itís worth noting that LAUSD uses about
40 million trays per year, and not only are
the new trays recyclable, but each paper tray
is about 3 to 4 cents cheaper than the foam
version, and results in the district saving
about $5 million to $6 million.
The list of towns and cities considering
bans on plastic foam is long and growing, but
you get the picture.
Iím going to stop here for a second to
state that Iím not a fan of local government
bans on things, but Iím going to leave politics
out of this discussion.
The point Iím trying to convey is that
there are opportunities opening up for the
paper industry as todayís society takes environmental
consciousness to a higher level.
Whether itís replacing billions of foam cups,
containers and trays with recyclable paper
alternatives or continually reinforcing to consumers
the fact that paper is truly a sustainable
product, the paper industry has to show
that its products are a better way forward.
If a group of school kids can do it . . .
John O'Brien can be reached at: email@example.com
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