Environmental Impact of Using Paper Plates
The use of paper plates during picnics or big parties, where washing and avoiding breakage of ceramic plates would be inconvenient may raise the question: what is the environmental impact of using paper plates? Determining whether using paper plates is better for the environment than running a dishwasher load that consumes electricity and water is a difficult task. However, looking at the impact of manufacturing paper plates as a separate question has clear answers.
🔘 Paper Consumption Impact on Global Forests
An investigative story--part of the Secret Life series--on the papermaking process examines the effects of the paper products industry on forests. Though sustainable forest management practices are increasing, much of the pulp used for paper including paper plates depends on virgin wood-based fibers. Being aware of where wood fiber for products is sourced from is becoming easier, as paper product brands now will have indicators if they were created from recycled fibers or fibers from sustainably managed forests. Look for brands using "post-consumer waste" to support recycling methods that most benefit forests, or consider switching to biodegradable compostable sugar cane plates.
🔘 Biodiversity Impacts of Timber Extraction
The Secret Life piece also examines the way unsustainable forestry practices can destroy ecosystems that rely on complex interactions between multiple species; elimination of an entire generation of a species of trees in one area can have a negative domino effect on other species that formerly relied on the logged trees for shelter, food, or conditions needed for reproduction. Logging roads can break up habitats and change wildlife access to food and shelter. As noted by the Sierra Club, "timber production does not harm only trees. A total of "3,000 species of fish and wildlife and 10,000 plant species, including some 300 endangered plant and animal species, live in National Forests" in the United States that are open for logging.
🔘 Pollutants from Paper Making
To make bright white paper plates, pulp derived from wood fibers must be bleached. Chlorine compounds are ranked among the most hazardous industrial chemicals in large volume use; they are known cancer-causing agents, and also are suspected of causing developmental, reproductive, and immune system damage in living organisms including humans, according to the Secret Life piece. To produce paper products, the environment is at risk, despite improvements to comply with requirements of the Environmental Protection Agency.
🔘 Zero Recyclability
Keep in mind that unlike office paper and newsprint, because paper plates are contaminated with food residue when used they cannot be recycled. Unless you have a home composting system your paper plates go straight to landfills, where biodegrading processes are slow.
🔘 Eco-Friendlier Alternatives
Regular paper is made from trees, which take at least 20 years to grow back, whereas sugarcane can be renewed in 10 to 18 months. Paper products also contribute to 10% of deforestation globally, which has dramatic negative consequences on biodiversity, ecosystems, and the environment.
Furthermore, the production of bagasse paper products is much more efficient, requiring only 1.5 tons of sugarcane pulp to produce 1 ton of bagasse paper versus the 5 tons of wood needed to produce 1 ton of regular paper.
One of the main advantages of bagasse fiber over other disposable products is that they will not pollute the environment for decades or even centuries to come. Bagasse products instead, biodegrade quickly and release no harmful chemicals.
Bagasse plates are made from 100% sugarcane fiber, the plate can be commercially composted (no need to send it to a landfill). The plate offers a disposable design that will degrade quickly, which means convenient cleanup for you, your customers, and the planet.
At The Eco Fairy, our goal is to help you build a more sustainable life by offering you a line of reusable products. We offer products that last and that will help you reduce the amount of plastic you use.
Check out our Eco-Friendly Compostable Bagasse Heavy Duty Plates 9 inches (100 per Pack): https://bit.ly/2Wo52u0
Also available on Amazon: https://amzn.to/3dmKWHY