Recycled paper at Starbucks, Citigroup and UPS – Where is it now?

19 06 2008

A dispatch.

A few weeks back, I was writing about CO2-friendly supply chains and saw the hefty list of U.S. companies that the Environmental Defense Fund had helped switch to recycled content in a drive to reduce paper waste across the nation.

Now, paper is back under the public eye in fuller force than ever because of its significant climate change footprint.
“Paper is a tremendously resource-intensive product to produce,” explains project manager Victoria Mills, “and the decomposition of paper in landfills generates methane, a greenhouse gas with 23 times the heat-trapping power of carbon dioxide.”

When EDF first consulted with their ambitious list of household brand companies like Starbucks, Citgroup, UPS and many others, they were pushing many “environmental firsts” (Starbucks was one of the first to use recycled content in direct food contact applications).

So, what was it that worked and where are these companies now, years after EDF intervened? And, most importantly, how have the original suggestions put forth by the EDF, public pressure and shifting supply chains challenged these brands to green their paper use even more?

Starbucks, after almost a decade since EDF joined hands to improve the retailer’s paper use, switched to 10% post-consumer recycled content paper cups, instituted a 10% per cup discount to encourage “for here (ceramic) versus to go” cups and adopted a corrugated cup sleeve to cut out double-cupping.

What Worked: Throw down a challenge
One of the more innovative things EDF did at that time included challenging Starbucks’ suppliers to find better materials and designs for its disposable cups. The team evaluated several designs, which included adding an insulated outer layer made from unbleached recycled fiber.

Where are they now?
According to their Februrary 2008 company fact sheet, Starbucks recycled their first-ever paper cup made with 10 percent post-consumer recycled fiber in 79 percent of all U.S. and Canada stores where they controled waste and recycling.

Citigroup, the world’s largest financial services firm, had their eye on two kinds of green when they partnered with EDF: a. to cut the environmental impacts of copy paper used nation-wide and; b. in doing so, cut costs. Through sheer determination, the reliable banking system, the size and number of offices across the U.S., Cititgroup managed to switch its U.S. offices to 30% recycled copy paper at no extra cost, producing annual environmental savings of 43.8 billion BTU’s of energy, 2,800 tons of greenhouse gases and 26.3 million gallons of wastewater.

What worked: “Visual education” for employees
However, what made Citigroup stand out was its employee education programs, including posted signs at its copying and printing locations to encourage double-sided copying and printing by its employees. During a 5-week, 2-sided printing test, Citigroup saved an estimated $98,000, 11 tons of solid waste and 28 tons of greenhouse gases.

Where are they now?
In 2005, Citigroup purchased more than 6,596 tons of copy paper. By purchasing recycled paper instead of virgin fiber paper, the financial services company:

Saved the equivalent to the amount of residential energy used by 363 homes per year and cut out over 4 million pounds of greenhouse gas emissions – equivalent to the amount released annually by 379 cars.

To date, Citigroup’s environmental savings continue to grow.

While most of the companies in the express delivery industry had made significant efforts to manage risk in the 1990s, UPS paid very little attention to advancing superior environmental performance to gain a competitive edge.

But in 1998, that changed – largely as a result of EDF’s intervention.

The packaging action plan announced in November 1998 cut across the spectrum of UPS’s express packaging. Together, the new packaging improvements along with the reusable envelope, reduced air pollution by almost 50 percent, cut wastewater discharge by more than 15 percent and used 12 percent less energy than previous UPS packaging. In addition, the initiatives saved the company more than $1 million annually.

What worked: Stimulating competitors to action
Once UPS jumped on board, overnight shipping companies spurred to make some notable improvements to their packaging.

In October of 1999, FedEx announced that it switched all of its bleached virgin paper envelopes to 100% recycled, minimum 35% post-consumer content paper. This change, which affected hundreds of millions of envelopes a year, saved almost 12,000 tons of trees annually.

Where are they now?
From UPS‘ latest Sustainability Report, UPS purchased 35,800 tons of materials with recycled content. These purchases have the equivalent energy savings of removing 6,618 passenger cars from the road for a year.

In 2005, UPS recycled 30,700 tons of solid waste materials including metals, plastics, paper, corru-
gated materials, pallets and wood waste, causing a ripple effect amongst their suppliers.

Through its Corporate Office Recycling Program, 54 percent of waste produced by UPS’ corporate office was recycled, including paper, cardboard, lamps and ballasts. In 2005, UPS recycled wastes at a rate of 115 pounds per person at these locations.

To date, UPS has also greened its ground and air fleets, resulting in significant fuel emissions reductions.

The Verdict?

According to BP‘s “Environment and society: The results so far” paper, if all Fortune 500 companies used recycled paper, an estimated 6,311,610 tons of CO2 could be prevent. Enough said.


Weekly Tip: Recently launched online dating site partners with American Forests, as it continues to pursue its goal of donating at least 12,000 trees annually.
Green Printer’s eco-calculator, with sources from the Environmental Defense Fund, helps customers like Best-Western, ReMax, Lush and Aveda go – and stay – green. Green Printer carries attractive, eco-friendly and high quality recycled paper types at competitive prices.



One response to “Recycled paper at Starbucks, Citigroup and UPS – Where is it now?”

11 12 2008
Brad (06:48:23) :

It’s great to see the results that large Fortune 500 companies can attain when they implement recycling efforts at that level. I’m sure it creates a “trickle down” effect where their paper supplier now has to become green conscious as well. However, compared to Fortune 500 companies, consider the impact that could be reached if just 25% of the millions of “small businesses” in the US adopted the same recycled paper philosophy. We could save a staggering amount of energy and resources.

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