I was looking at the plastic packaging from the Earth First toilet paper we recently purchased, trying to determine if the plastic was recyclable. Generally, recyclable plastic bags have a recycling symbol with a number that tells you exactly what it is, and which lets you know if it is one of the types taken locally
. But all I saw was the symbol on the package saying 100% recyclable.
Did that refer to the package, or just to the contents?
Then I noticed on the package in small print something saying that the plastic was designed to be environmentally friendly, and would expire in 18 months.
I had no idea what that meant. Would I have to bring it back to he public library, or what?
So I called the number on the package. I thought about pretending I was Gene Weingarten, but decided to play it straight.
The operator I talked to listened to my question and was flummoxed, and she sent me to customer service. The customer service agent had also never heard the question before, and said she'd get back to me after talking to the factory.
Just about this point in the conversation, I finally saw it -- the number 4 recycling symbol on the plastic wrap. So, that was my answer. Recyclable after all! I decided to not tell the person on the phone what I'd seen, mostly out of embarrassment.
When the phone call came a hour or so later and the caller ID said "Royal Paper," I ignored it, thinking it was some kind of telemarketing call. But my wife picked it up, and it was my agent calling back to make sure she had the details of the query. What brand of toilet paper was it exactly I was looking at?
Well, it turns out that Earth First is the environmentally friendly brand used by Royal Paper
, I guess to differentiate it from their eco-disaster brands, like Soft & Silky and Petalo.
And when they finally called back with the answer, we found that the bag was not a recyclable number 4 plastic, but a decomposable number 4. That means that the bag decomposes over a small number of months.
But decomposable doesn't mean compostable. It doesn't turn into organic material, so we can't put it into the compost. It's not regular plastic and can't be recycled. If it ends up in the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, it will turn into microscopic plastic bits that will make their way up the food chain. It has to go into the landfill.
Plus, the confusing packaging makes it likely that the bag will be thrown in with the rest of the plastic bags being turned into fleece or lumber, and may contaminate the entire load.
Royal Paper, how has your greenwashing (or greenwiping) helped anybody, except helping you market your green brand to gullible environmentalists?
Labels: business, consumers, environment, personal, product review