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Dogwood Alliance’s User-Friendly Guide to Environmentally Friendly Packaging

Step one on the path to sustainable fast food packaging begins with corporate leadership on sustainability according to a new report from Dogwood Alliance, “Greening Fast Food Packaging: A Roadmap to Best Practices,” and from there are just seven more steps:

– Use full life cycle and supply chain approach;
– Reduce overall packaging and increase efficiency;
– Increase the use of recycled fiber;
– Eliminate paper originating from controversial forestry practices;
– Increase in-store recycling and recovery;
– Reduce carbon footprint.

The Asheville, N.C.-based group, which works to protect forests by involving corporations, landowners and communities in sustainable packaging efforts and awareness campaigns, has taken a good look at the complex issues of fast food packaging. They then created a simplified user guide for companies in the fast food industry that want to create a plan of action, but aren’t quite sure where to start.

The report outlines its eight basic steps, and then offers a few examples of best practices incorporated by fast foods corporations that are meeting their sustainable packaging goals one challenge at a time.

For example, to embrace corporate leadership on sustainability the Dogwood Alliance recommends membership in the Sustainable Packaging Coalition and other environmental packaging forums, and points out that the CEO of Quiznos initiated the company’s environmental paper packaging policy and is main public spokesperson for policy, the report said.

When companies aim to reduce overall packaging, the report suggests “right sizing” and “light-weighting” as strategies that can be expected to show a return in investment with reduced costs and transportation benefits. McDonald’s UK, for example, saved 84 tons of paper in 2010 by making a 10 centimeter design change to its bun tray liners, and Subway re-engineered corrugated boxes to save 2 million pounds of corrugated materials, the report said.

The report includes additional guidance on how to create an action plan with short- medium- and long term targets and considerations. It also aslo and appendix with a sample questionnaire to help manufacturers get started on a sustainable packaging policy for a packaging product, ranging from simple yes-and-no questions to a list of which coatings, adhesives, resins, inks might need to be cross-checked on which national registry of chemicals.

The Dogwood Alliance hopes that by breaking out the complexities of a new sustainable packaging strategy  into a straightforward, stepwise action plan, more companies can make a plan and take action.


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