In a word: yes. And no.
Technically speaking, wood and other plant based fibers used in paper are biodegradable. However, if you want to take this information and apply it to an environmental claim on a printed piece – don’t.
At a recent conference, James Kohm, a representative of the Federal Trade Commission indicated that they discourage the use of biodegradable claims on ANY solid materials (i.e. this may still be ok for certain liquids, like laundry detergents).
In the eyes of the FTC, if something is biodegradable it must break down to elements of nature in one year using customary disposal methods. And in the US, customary disposal of solid materials means a landfill, an incinerator, or a recycling facility. Not a composting facility. Not your backyard garden.
And while we all eagerly await revisions to the “Green Guides”, The FTC has cracked down on major corporations for making misleading and unsubstantiated claims that their paper products were biodegradable.
Of course when it comes down to it, for printing and writing grades, we shouldn’t be making biodegradable claims in the first place. These products can be, and should be, recycled.
So if you want to make a claim and support the responsible use of paper, don’t even think about labeling your work as biodegradable. Use a please recycle claim or logo and help us continue to increase recycling rates.
Forget about biodegradable claims – and stick with please recycle!
As part of their Go Green commitment, the US Postal Service has designed a series of 16 Forever stamps showing what each of us can do to promote the health of our environment. While this is one of my favorites, the full series includes reminders about public transportation, adjusting your thermostat, composting and more.
But the USPS efforts go way beyond cool stamps. They have a clear set of energy and GHG reduction goals and they are in the process of piloting a carbon accounting system which could pave the way for an offset program.
For an update on the Postal Service’s sustainability goals I would encourage you to read this article from GreenBiz: US Postal Service Delivers a Smaller Carbon Footprint.
For a more thorough explanation of their new carbon accounting system, check out this article from the Post & Parcel.
All of Sappi’s fine paper products are recyclable and we want to do everything we can to help keep these products out of landfills. So, every chance I get, I try to encourage the creative community and corporate marketers to use “please recycle” claims or logos.
Our own collateral often reads: “Please help us preserve our planet. If you choose not to keep this ____[fill in the blank], please place it in a recycling bin. Thank you.” We encourage reuse first and then recycling. The statement is often accompanied by the chasing arrow symbol.
The Association for Magazine Media (formerly the MPA) has developed a recycling logo specifically for magazines. I can just imagine the conversations that went on in the development of the logo. Something like: “If we just say ‘please recycle’ people might think it’s a reminder to recycle in general, pat themselves on the back for recycling cans and bottles, and then throw their magazine in the trash”. So the logo is very clear. Magazines are recyclable. So are catalogs. So is direct mail.
The Direct Marketing Association has done a good job in creating a blue bin please recycle campaign which can be seen at this link:http://www.dmaresponsibility.org/recycle/ The DMA logos are commonly found on catalogs and direct mail post cards, but use is restricted to members only. Both of the associations offer logos in English and Spanish.
Unlike certification programs, there is a lot of room for creativity in this space. But be sure your message distinguishes between recycled content and encouraging people to recycle. According to the FTC Green Guides, the chasing arrow symbol alone indicates that a product is made of 100% recycled materials and is recyclable.
If you are responsible for content development - ask yourself - am I doing enough to promote recycling of paper products? If you have any examples of creative executions, please share.
The Environmental Paper Network is working to drive higher levels of recycling on college campuses. Targeting 75% recovery by 2015. The data is clear, while segments like old corrugated containers have reached over 80% recovery, we can do better with printing and writing grades. This is a great challenge. I for one will be writing to my alma mater encouraging them to take the pledge. You can do the same.
Learn more on Facebook: RePaper Challenge
Or check out www.RePaperProject.org
For recycling statistics visit www.paperrecycles.org