GRN Recycle Talk FAQ

Date: Fri Feb 28 1997 - 05:01:00 EST

Date: Fri, 28 Feb 97 10:01 WET
Subject: Re: What are the environmental issues related to packaging (Berenicce Linck)

Feb 28, 1997

Dear Berenicce Linck,

You ask some very good questions. I will give you very abbreviated answers and sources here, but invite you to write to the Research Library for RCRA at US EPA-New England, SPP. JFK Federal Bldg, Boston, MA 02203 giving your postal mailing address so that we might send you a more complete response.

Environmental issues regarding packaging:

- single use packaging is wasteful, design for reuse is feasible, easy, and avoids production of some pretty toxic substances and wastes
- toxics from packaging such as lead, cademium, and mercury create disposal problems
- unnecessary secondary and tertiary packaging is often an uncritical step in business decisions which has not been fully examined
- much packaging is arbitrarily selected and is more a marketing decision than a materials use, business, or waste management decision, which is inadequate from an environmental standpoint.
- unnecessary packaging is a poor social theoretical outcome for an advanced society. The materials used in packaging have arrived there without social approval, but society bears the consequences.

As to your economics of recycling question: Yes, we have many documents bearing upon this, but there are equally many within your reach. Check the Harvard Business Review for example, publications of the Tellus Institute, Boston, MA, and talk to the National Recycling Coalition and also John Tierney, the anti-recycling author whose 1996 NY Times Sunday Magazine article produced a furor. Talk to Environmental Defense Fund, SWANA, etc.

One document bearing on both questions is the Preferred Packaging Procurement Guidelines of the Washington Retail Assn., from 1/92.

-- Fred Friedman, Head, Research Library for RCRA

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