Oregon State University Professor Angelicque White made global headlines this week with her report criticizing the media for grossly exaggerating the size of the "Great Garbage Patch." The Green Living Blog from UK's Guardian newspaper took a closer look at the issue with a post today, "Which is the bigger eco-villain: plastic or paper?" Blogger Sylvia Rowley says plastic clearly poses a threat to wildlife, and suffers from its visibility in marine debris and litter. "However, in some cases, plastic is environmentally the better option," she writes, because plastic, if recycled, has a better carbon footprint than materials like cardboard. Nevertheless, she cites the example of a UK company, Riverford Organics, that tried to switch its packaging from cardboard to durable plastic boxes, only to face a backlash from its customers. Founder Guy Watson told the Guardian that the company decided to stay with cardboard because of the perception that it was better. Riverford Organics did not want to risk losing customers who believed plastic was environmentally unfriendly. "You have to be quite courageous to fly in the face of people's intuitive judgement," Watson said, "and some might say commercially foolhardy." (Now he's investigating using bamboo, instead.) Manufacturers can't expect many customers to step up and make the case that plastics are the superior choice. Publicity about studies like White's at Oregon State may help. But until the plastics industry makes progress on its recycling efforts, and its image problem, potential customers like Watson will have a tough time carrying that burden on their own.
Plastic loses even when it wins
Do you have an opinion about this story? Do you have some thoughts you'd like to share with our readers? Plastics News would love to hear from you. Email your letter to Editor at [email protected]