The Dogwood Alliance, an environmental group working to preserve forests in the southern US, released a report outlining eight key attributes of environmentally friendly fast food packaging, and offering guidance on how to assess environmental impacts in the supply chain.
The Asheville, NC-based nonprofit said the report, "Greening Fast Food Packaging: A Roadmap to Best Practices," highlights leaders in the fast food industry that have undertaken key initiatives that will help move the entire sector forward.
Paper makes up the vast majority of fast food packaging, and destructive impacts to forests and communities from paper production are well documented.
The report details ways corporate leadership can adopt an environmental paper packaging policy that includes reduction in overall use of packaging, increase in use of recycled fiber, and elimination of controversial sources of paper, including fiber from endangered forests, and natural forests converted to tree plantations.
"Real leadership emerged from companies like McDonald's and Starbucks who have taken important steps to reduce packaging, increase the use of recycled content, and eliminate controversial sources of paper originating from destructive logging practices," said Scot Quaranda, campaign director at Dogwood Alliance and one of the report's authors. "Unfortunately, some companies have chosen to simply paint their paper packaging green by utilizing the Sustainable Forestry Initiative (SFI) certification which actually certified destructive logging practices as sustainable."
The report highlights corporate leaders who have taken initiative on the eight key attributes.
For example, Starbucks has committed to reducing the overall use of packaging and pushed the FDA to increase the maximum allowable recycled content in food grade packaging.
Another example is McDonald's, who adopted an industry leading environmental packaging policy that included both continued progress on the increased use of recycled fiber but also took a comprehensive approach to its non-recycled paper packaging.
That commitment eliminates fiber coming from the conversion of natural forests to plantations and gives a clear preference to Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) certified paper, the only paper certification broadly endorsed by the environmental community.
Unfortunately, while there are standout leaders, a number of key companies continue to greenwash rather than take real action, says the report, which points to companies like Yum! Brands, the target of the Dogwood Alliance Kentucky Fried Forests campaign, who rely on the highly-criticized SFI certification, which certifies as sustainable the worst forest practices including logging of endangered forests, conversion of natural forests to plantations, and large-scale clearcutting.
In addition to highlighting the key issues associated with paper packaging – reduction, increased use recycled fiber, and elimination of controversial paper sources – the report highlights other attributes for across the board greening of a company's packaging. The other key attributes include corporate leadership, utilizing a full life cycle approach, increasing in-store recycling and recovery, eliminating toxic inks and labels, and managing the overall carbon footprint.
"We hope that by boiling down complex issues into a straightforward, stepwise action plan, companies can make progress on their packaging, creating a win-win for our forests and the corporate bottom-line," said Quaranda. "By following our roadmap and working with experts in key areas associated with the packaging supply chain, more companies can lead rather than lag further behind."
The full report, which also includes an easy to use pull-out supplier survey to assess a company's current packaging, can be reviewed and downloaded here.
Source: Sustainable Food News