No Free Refills: Fast Food Packaging Industry Destroying Southern US Forests


America is eating up its forests, literally. In addition to a recent report by the non-profit Dogwood Alliance, a new campaign called No Free Refills has been launched to highlight the fast-food industry's major role in the deforestation of the Southern forests of the US. Their eye-catching and informative website doesn't go lightly on "DeluxDeforestation" either, stating that: "Packaging symbolizes the disposable society we have become. Nowhere is this more obvious than in the fast food industry."

With nearly a 100 paper packaging mills in the region and thousands of restaurants worldwide, fast-food giants such as McDonalds, Wendy's, KFC, Pizza Hut, Arby's, Quizzno's and Taco Bell are major consumers of paper products sourced from the area. "Every year millions of pounds of food packaging waste litter our roadways, clog our landfills and spoil our quality of life. Southern forests, the jewel of the American landscape, are being destroyed to bring you fried chicken, burgers and fries, and super-sized convenience in a glut of wrappers, boxes and cups," says Lauren Barnett, the Alliance Media Outreach coordinator. The Southern forests of North America are a major source of wood and paper products, supplying 60% of the US and 15% of global markets. This has resulted in a total decline from 356 million acres in colonial times to 182 million acres today, threatening the region's bio-diversity and its endangered species, not to mention the deterioration of a major carbon sink.

To give you a sense of the enormity, the Dogwood Alliance states that Americans use 15 billion disposable coffee cups a year, with projected numbers reaching 23 billion by 2010.

Some of their recommendations to fast food retailers:
1. Reduce their over use of packaging.
2. Maximize the use of 100% post-consumer recycled boxboard, a readily available alternative.
3. Eliminate paper packaging coming from the most biologically important endangered forests.
4. Eliminate paper packaging coming from suppliers that are contributing to the conversion of natural forests into industrial pine plantations.
5. Work with packaging suppliers to improve forest management practices through increased use of fiber from responsibly managed forests certified by the Forest Stewardship Council.
6. Recycle waste in restaurants to divert paper and other recoverable materials from landfills.

Recommendations for consumers:
Uh, how about bringing your own coffee mug? Or bringing your own plastic containers from home for a take-home meal? Forget plastic utensils — bring your own portables (or chopsticks, if you prefer). It's not that difficult, wastes a lot less and is still pretty convenient. Says Barnett: "Simple choices and creative solutions can reduce the excess and destruction while still allowing us to enjoy the level of convenience we have come to expect."
::No Free Refills via Mongobay

See Also:
::Report: There's A Forest In Your Packaging
::Every Business is in the Forest Business
::Greenwashing in the New Yorker: The Sustainable Forestry Initiative
::Treehugger on Packaging

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