3 January 2024
Plastic Packaging Is More Sustainable Then Paper Claim
CHICAGO—
Forests are a renewable resource. Fossil fuel products are not.
Forests are a renewable resource. Fossil fuel products are not.
 Two Sides Responds plastic industry claims. An opinion piece by an advocate for the plastics industry that included multiple unsubstantiated environmental claims about paper-based packaging. Two Sides response. They claim that plastics have “a lower environmental impact” than paper-based packaging instead of simply making a fact-based environmental case? Could it be because paper products are the gold standard for circularity and true sustainability?
 
The claims that plastic packaging “helps the planet” and “saves tens of millions of trees every year,” In doing so, must also catalog the environmental consequences of plastic packaging, from the extraction of finite resources and energy use to the fate of final product. The resins used to make plastics are derived from non-renewable fossil fuels and single-use plastics also are incredibly energy-intensive to produce.The public toss millions of tons of plastic packaging into their recycling bins, not much of it actually gets recycled, only about 9% of the total plastic. There are just too many different types of plastic, each with different recycling requirements, so they can’t be combined and recycled together. Paper-based packaging is manufactured using an infinitely renewable natural resource – trees that are purpose-grown. And it is manufactured in a process that uses mostly (64% on average in the U.S.) renewable bioenergy. According to the EPA’s Greenhouse Gas Inventory, the pulp and paper industry is not a major contributor to climate change, contributing less than 0.6% of total U.S. CO2e emissions.While all of these unique environmental characteristics make paper arguably one of the most sustainable products on earth. Today, 94% of Americans have access to a community paper recycling program, and 79% have access to residential recycling programs, this according to a comprehensive national study. With a recycling rate of 68%, paper and paper-based packaging are the most recycled material in municipal solid waste stream (EPA).The rate jumps to nearly 94% for cardboard packaging (AF&PA).
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