Reading a statement by a Wal-mart vp gave me a minor epiphany. This post on Boing Boing: Corn plastic may not be as green as you might think describes how Wal-Mart is touting this new biodegradable packaging, but it needs special conditions for the stuff to really biodegrade. Instead of throwing the stuff in your compost bin, you have to bring it to a large facility where the compost reaches 140 degrees for ten consecutive days. Since these facilities are not widely available (113 places around the US), chances are that much less than 100% of this stuff will get properly composted.

"Wal-Mart's (VP of private brands and product development Matt) Kistler says the company isn't about to take back used PLA for composting. 'We're not in the business of collecting garbage,' he says."

There you have it. He has accidentally clarified the best way to make packaging sustainable. Any place that sells disposable products or disposable packaging ought to be responsible for disposing of it in a sustainable way.

This is how they moved to keep cans and bottles off roads in Michigan. (I don't know if we were the first, but try to find another state that gives you a whole dime for each can.) Every store that sells soda or beer cans is required to take back those cans for deposit. It's gross dragging bags of dripping cans into a grocery store, but it keeps those cans from migrating all over the woods and roadsides and landfills. Hell of a lot better than before. Now I don't know what they do with the plastic or aluminum reclaimed in the process, but at least this shows the importance of forcing business to reclaim the messes that they cause. Want your business to avoid all kinds of yucky reclamation areas inside your place of business? Then make sure you sell products with minimal packaging.

I suppose other people have thought of this before, but it's really obvious when you think things through.


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