June 16, 2009

A Departure from my usual Subjects ...Well, maybe not...

As some of you know, my day job is working for a wholesale distributer of packaging, everything from giftwrap and ribbons to the lowly plastic bag. It is because of that plastic bag, that I want to reblog an article that the founder of Nashville Wraps wrote recently. I wish you would all take the time to read it if you care at all about knowing the truth about plastic that you are NOT being told by mainstream media nor politicians!
Mr. Meadows is the founder of Nashville Wraps back in 1976. He is the author of many articles on recycling, business, economics and retail packaging. He also happens to be my baby brother but I would have published this if that were not the case. Nashville Wraps is a company committed to recycling, conservation, green packaging and in fact has the only registered trade mark (Green Way ® ) in the retail packaging field for natural, sustainable and environmentally friendly packaging. For my gardening buddies, he is also a farmer - just like our dad!

The Ultimate Reusable Bag...
is a bag that can literally make another one from itself

Long ago in a galaxy far, far away it was decided that disposable bags were the biggest environmental problem on the planet. They were responsible for lasting thousands of years in landfills, killing sea life, sticking in trees, consuming imported oil, leaking toxic chemicals, and expending vast amounts of energy.

A rebel alliance was formed to dispel the half-truths, deceptions and alert the good people of a better way. And more importantly to reveal their secret defense... a bag that can literally make another one from itself.

About the rebels:
I am one of them and so are many other people I know and thousands on thousands that I don’t know. I am a consumer; I go to the grocery too; I am a man, plus I am 55. These last two are personal elements that are naturally against voluntary change. But you know what...I have made changes and they are now a natural part of my life.

One of my best friends makes bags. He is a rebel too, as well as his counterparts but if I thought his products were harmful or even not the “right” thing for the time I would be the first to say so. He knows that. But it is not the case. So many times across the years we have discussed what the “right” thing in retail packaging is.

The real question people want answered is “What is the best and lasting solution or in today’s terms a “sustainable” solution”?

The solution is a no brainer on our part because my friend and I have seen it time and again, looked at the math, looked at the science and looked at the social, business and personal elements of it; been there, done that and are in the smack dab middle of it. Those of you who read these blogs know what I’m about to say but the answer in every argument is a recycled plastic bag.

My numbers show that a large portion of Nashville Wraps customers also agree. Our 100% recycled or even high recycled content PE (polyethylene) bags are up almost double in sales from last year and double again from the year before that.

Why it will work and why it won’t...
We know the environmental and economics of this will work, but it really depends on the consumer; more specifically if the consumer is given the opportunity to hear the truth and makes a simple decision to recycle. If the consumer will recycle plastics, the rest is magic and we close the loop on this entire argument. No more bans, no more bitching, no more problems with more imports getting into the economy when we can do it all here.

I know that from my perspective it is working. Over the weekend I asked 4 guys from our warehouse to help me harvest hay (yes I am a farmer too). During the day we all drank bottled water and cold drinks in cans. After the work was done it was beer and burgers. Everyone was conscious of where they put their recyclables and in fact we kept a sack of them circulating. Never has that happened before. And oh they all came in one vehicle too. This is a small example but it is the small things which are significant...

The cumulative effect of small things will change the big ones.

Our entire company does this, their families and friends; and I estimate conservatively that we have directly influenced about 500 more people associated with us that now do too.

The point is that if consumers at large will recycle plastics then it will provide the raw materials to create more bags and other products with very little energy and the lowest carbon footprint of any bag regardless of the type, style or material. It is inconceivable that local governments cannot seem to embrace this simple concept; instead their solution is tax and/or ban. The alternatives are far worse for the consumers, economics and environment long term.

About the truths:

Landfills: Studies show that plastic bags are less than 3% of the volume in any municipal landfills. Modern plastics had learned a lesson taught by the infamous IMF (Impossible Mission Force) in that they simply self destruct! Today our PE bags are made with a degradable additive that is non-toxic and decays even in land-fill conditions (anaerobic). They decay even faster when carelessly tossed on the street and even when washed into culverts, creeks, rivers and yes...even oceans.

Sea Life: The plastic which endangers sea life are those impossible to pull apart cold drink rings that keep a 6 pack together...not thin PE bags. Inspections made by marine biologist of the contents of fish and sea mammals stomachs reveal no dangers caused by PE bags. Those reusable totes now at your grocery store however have a much greater potential for danger in our opinion as they are darn near indestructible.

Litter in trees and other places: There is no doubt that we have been a throw away society. But we can change and are changing. My neighbors are changing! We have not had much help for our local or federal governments to recycle. But we know that some people do not care about being responsible citizens and continue to litter, maybe its about education and awareness. Our ace up the sleeve is the degradability of PE bags in that they decompose quickly into trace amounts of C02, H20 and silicon (sand). Paper also decomposes into C02, cellulous fiber and other trace compounds. Non-woven reusable totes do not presently break down as a practical matter.

Consuming imported oil: All domestic PE bags are now made from a by product of natural gas which use to be burn off. It has been years since they were made from crude oil, but be aware that is not the case overseas. In Asia , bags are still made from foreign oil and their political alliances and sources are often unfriendly to North American interests. Most bags today which are made in the USA actually use a very small portion of new PE resins if any at all due to recycling efforts and new technologies.

Leaching toxic chemicals: There are more toxic chemicals in a glass of water than in a PE bag. Polyethylene is an FDA rated food safe material approved for direct food contact when processed under the FDA requirements (Our domestic bags are all that way). The chemical make up of these bags and the inks all conform to the most stringent requirements of California ’s Water quality and Toxins in Packaging legislation. Now all bags imported into the US have to meet these same requirements, so even the imports are much safer now than they used to be.

Energy requirements: I know from personal observation and facts that the energy required to produce even a new plastic bag from 100% new resign (not-recycled) is a fraction of the energy required to make paper and the non-woven polypropylenes totes so prevalent today. The closest bag to PE in terms of low energy required is a PET bag which is made from recycled plastic drink bottles. Of course some municipalities want to ban those too. The energy requirement for making recycled plastics is even lower. I have personally watched the machine take a bale of old plastic bags and turn them into usable resin pellets in only a few minutes and I saw what little power it was running on as well.

The final analysis: Recycling plastic bags, bottles, and other similar packaging is now economically viable, and sustainable from every definition of it. The process creates no significant pollution, does not depend on imports, uses low energy and therefore has a the lowest carbon footprint of any bag. And by the way, it makes a superior product.

It is in fact The Ultimate Reusable Bag; A bag that can literally make another one from itself.

R Meadows, Nashville Wraps
We welcome your comments, here or on the Nashvillewraps.com Blog

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