Be it paper or plastic, packaging and its environmental impacts have always been squarely on the TreeHugger radar (here, here and there). And last week, to add one more pebble to the mountain, the Dogwood Alliance released a report on the effects of logging in the southeastern parts of the United States, which shows that eco-unfriendly packaging is not only a global issue, but also one that hits pretty close to home.
The report, "Southeastern Swamplands and Paper Packaging", focuses on the rich biodiversity of the thirteen-state region, which is the largest paper-producing region in the world, supplying 15% of the world's paper. Twenty-five percent of all the wood fibre from this region ends up as paper packaging — out of six million acres cut down annually. The report describes how big paper companies and their corporate clients are affecting biodiversity in the region, which has the "highest concentration of tree species diversity in North America; the highest concentration of aquatic diversity in the continental United States, including the richest temperate freshwater ecosystem in the world; and the highest concentration of wetlands in the U.S., 75% of which are forested."
Paper is still the most frequently used type of packaging material at a total of 34 percent. Plastic comes second at 30 percent. Though conscientious and smart packaging design also helps, the report makes it clear that the impetus has to also come from consumer awareness and action to motivate corporate clients of the paper industry to advocate for more sustainable practices.
Unilever, L'Oreal, Wal-Mart, Glaxo-Smith Kline, Schering Plough Corporation, KFC, McDonalds, Buffalo Wild Wings, Taco Bell and Starbucks, General Mills and Costco are some of the corporate clients named which use paper sourced from the southeast.
In addition, the report identifies paper-producer International Paper as a major player in the region's "chain of custody", economically and environmentally:
The paper packaging produced at these mills eventually enters the marketplace in the form of nationally and internationally recognized products. Clearly this connects the broader public to the very act of resource exploitation in the Southern Swamplands. And it is this connection in the marketplace that will serve as a wakeup call to the concerned public, the large corporate customers of the mills and ultimately the large pulp and paper companies that hold so much sway over the forests of this very special region.
::Sustainable Is Good
See also ::Southeastern Swamplands and Paper Packaging Report (PDF), ::Secondary Packaging — The Silent Killer of the Environment, ::TreeHugger Picks: Smart Packaging Design, ::Wal-Mart Introduces Packaging Scorecard
Images: Dogwood Alliance