Is paper the best alternative to plastic

papervsplasticThree interesting articles have surfaced recently, all relating to a growing ecological problem: Plastic contamination of our oceans. It is estimated that several million tons per year of plastic is settling in our oceans, most of it migrating from land.

The first article entitled “Ship returns after month long study of plastic garbage in Pacific Ocean” was an Associated Press article published in www.mlive.com. Source. The expedition consisted of one 171 foot long “mother boat” and 30 boats filled with volunteer crews traveling to study plastic waste in the ocean. The crews have been measuring size of waste, collecting samples and mapping the location of the plastic waste between the US West Coast and Hawaiian Islands.   It is feared that plastic garbage in the ocean is threatening nearly 700 species of fish.

The ultimate goal of the sponsors is to develop viable methods for removing the plastic garbage from the numerous collection points.

The second article we found was published in The DailyMail (www.dailylmail.co.uk) the article was entitled: “watch humanity ruin the oceans: Nasa animation shows how vast ‘garbage islands’ have taken over the seas in the last 35 years”.  Source.  Satellite photos taken over several decades’ show how plastic garbage is congregating in five collection areas in the major oceans.   The video below shows some pretty interesting animation.

Video link: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/article-3206442/Watch-humanity-ruin-oceans-Nasa-animation-shows-vast-garbage-islands-taken-seas-35-years.html#v-4437160824001

According to this article, around 8 million tons of plastic bottles, bags, toys and other plastic rubbish pollute the oceans every year. The scientists quoted in this article are skeptical that a viable method can be developed for removing the plastic so they are calling for significant global measures to reduce the use of plastic.

While there is plenty that can be done in the US (ranks #20 as the top plastic polluter in the world), more than half of the plastic flows from five countries: China, Indonesia, Philippines, Vietnam and Sri Lanka. Source

The third related article is actually a comprehensive report published by ResearchandMarkets (www.researchandmarkets.com) entitled:” Paper Packaging & Paperboard Packaging Market by Grade, Application – Trends & Forecast to 2020”. Viewing the entire 300 page white paper requires payment, but the gist of the article is this: Demand for paper and paperboard packaging solutions is increasing significantly and will shortly surpass plastic packaging solutions.   The reason is that paper based packaging products are considered more eco friendly, particularly as it relates to ocean contamination.   The majority of packaging applications for paper involve the food, beverages, healthcare, and home care.

It appears that the global response to the plastic contamination problem is to replace plastic with paper based products when feasible.

From our viewpoint, while paper may be better in some cases, the process of fabricating and delivering paper is a major source of pollution and water use.  Also wood is a valuable resource and we are in danger of depleting our forests if the supply and demand is not managed. While there are improvements being made in the paper processing industry, we are still switching one form of pollution for another.

Industrial packaging is not considered a major source of plastic or paper pollution; however Packnet has always been a strong advocate of reusable packaging systems and better management of recycling.   Reusable containers are often made of corrugated plastic and can last years. Additionally corrugated plastic is recyclable.   It is fortunate that most industrial users in the US are very eco-conscious and tend to be pretty diligent in proper disposal of plastic.   We feel that reusable containers are the ideal way to minimize pollution and material waste of all resources. More info on our reusable containers.