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Re: [GreenYes] margarine/yogurt tubs
So the question begs...why do companies use #5 plastic rather than #2 for 
their tubs?  This was a question from one of my members.

I found one answer via Stonyfield Farms.  Now before anything else I must 
make a disclaimer and show my bias -- I think Stonyfield is a great company 
and commend them on their efforts and transparency.   Not only do they treat 
their farmers and employees very well but I honestly believe they are trying 
to do the right thing for the earth and humanity.

The short answer to the question is that Stonyfield saves more resources in 
production of their tubs where the majority of waste occurs using #5 instead 
of #2.  They also offer a take back program where you mail in your containers 
and in return Stonyfield sends you a thank you and coupons (that more than 
cover your cost of postage for sending the containers) and works with 
Recycline to turn the containers into toothbrushes.  Reycline offers a 
service that sends you a new toothbrush every 3 months and takes back your 
old toothbrushes and turns them into park benches and other end use items.

More details are copied below directly from Stonyfield's website.  It is well 
worth the time to read.

Cheers,

Sarah Boren
Green Team Project, an environmental non-profit that focuses on environmental 
education and community building by helping individuals and businesses adopt 
more sustainable habits and practices.
P.O. Box 330786
Atlantic Beach, FL  32233-0786
Tel: (904) 249-8272
Fax: (904) 242-2759
Email: greenteamproject@earthlink.net
Website: www.greenteamproject.org 

"You must be the change you wish to see in the world."
Mahatma Gandhi -- early 20th century

"Never doubt that a small group of committed individuals can change the 
world."
Margaret Mead -- mid-20th century


Direct from Stoneyfield's website: 
http://www.stonyfield.com/Ido/EvironmentalPackaging.shtml
Stonyfield Farm and Environmental Packaging

Stonyfield Farm manufactures millions of yogurt cups annually. We are keenly 
aware that through our packaging we have an enormous impact on the 
environment. Our packaging choices are extremely important to us, as we know 
they are to you. What follows is a brief description of our packaging options 
and the choices we have made.

Background
In the mid '80's when we first began examining the environmental aspects of 
our packaging, we assumed that the most important characteristic was 
recyclability. It was important to us that the finished product not become 
solid waste so we set out to find the most recyclable cup available. We 
discovered through our search that recyclability is just one of many factors 
that must be considered in addressing the total impact of our packaging on 
the environment.

In recent years, an effective tool for measuring the environmental impact of 
a product has emerged. Life Cycle Analysis (LCA) is the process of 
determining the environmental impact of a product from its manufacture and 
use, through its re-use, recycling and/or disposal. Several LCA studies have 
aided manufacturers in the decision-making process. Perhaps the most 
extensive packaging study to date, undertaken by the Boston based Tellus 
Institute, illuminated our understanding of the environmental impact of 
packaging. It compared a variety of packaging options such as plastics, 
aseptic and poly-coated paper (used for milk cartons, ice cream and "paper" 
yogurt containers), metals and glass.

The Tellus study findings were surprising, indicating that less than 5% of 
the total environmental cost of packaging is in the disposal. Over 95% of the 
environmental cost is in the production of the package! Focusing efforts 
predominantly on the "end use" such as recycling or disposal addresses only a 
tiny aspect of the overall container impact. It is more accurate to look at 
the environmental impact of the container over its entire life cycle.

The Tellus Institute study concluded that with the exception of PVC plastic 
(#3) which has significantly higher environmental impact, "...the 
lightest-weight package, per unit of delivered end product, is generally the 
lowest-impact product".

The concept of source reduction--reducing the amount of material in a 
product--has been overshadowed by the tremendous enthusiasm to recycle. 
Recycling is important, but it may be more environmentally advantageous to 
reduce the amount of material generated in the first place. The solid waste 
hierarchy teaches us to first reduce, then reuse, and finally recycle.

Stonyfield Farm Packaging
After examining our options (including glass, poly-coated paper, and 
plastic), we chose a lightweight plastic. Glass, which is widely recycled and 
made from recycled material, was rejected as the environmental costs of 
transporting the heavy material outweigh the benefits. The energy (fossil 
fuels) used over the entire life of the glass package for its manufacture and 
transport exceed the energy that goes into the manufacturing and transporting 
of a plastic container.

Poly-coated paper, requested by many of our customers, was ruled out for 
several reasons. It is not made from recycled material as FDA prohibits the 
use of recycled material in contact with food. The "paper" containers are 
plastic coated and recyclable in only a few communities nation-wide. The 
paper-making process produces highly carcinogenic dioxins. We are however, 
researching an alternative that holds great promise for the future--a 
"chlorine free" paper container which eliminates the release of dioxins in 
the paper making process.

We concluded that at this time, plastic polypropylene (#5) containers appear 
to be the best option to assure our product quality, with the least amount of 
material, fossil fuel and environmental impact.

HDPE (#2) vs. Polypropylene (#5) Plastic
With polypropylene (#5) plastic packaging, Stonyfield Farm uses significantly 
less plastic than we would if our cups were HDPE (#2) plastic. One of the 
most beneficial characteristics of (#5) plastic is that it can be made with 
thinner walls, while maintaining the same structural integrity. Our quart 
containers are over 30% lighter today than they were just 10 years ago. By 
using (#5) plastic instead of (#2), in 1998 alone we prevented the 
manufacture and disposal of over 85 tons of plastic. Added environmental 
savings were achieved through decreased air emissions and resource depletion 
associated with the manufacture and distribution of the packaging. In 
addition, polypropylene is manufactured without the use of chlorine, thus 
eliminating the hazards of deadly dioxin releases during manufacture and 
incineration which occur with certain other plastics.

Still, many of our customers have requested that we use HDPE (#2) plastic 
because it's is the only yogurt container recycled in their community. 
Unfortunately these customers are mistaken. Most communities accepting HDPE 
plastic for recycling actually recycle bottles only. Bottles and wide-mouth 
containers such as yogurt containers have different melting points, thus 
rendering them undesirable for recycling together. Many communities accept 
all HDPE plastics to avoid consumer confusion, then they landfill or 
incinerate all but the bottles. The 1997 national recycling rate for HDPE 
bottles was over 24%, but less than 2% of wide-mouthed HDPE plastic (such as 
yogurt cups) were recycled (R.W. Beck 1997 National Post-Consumer Plastics 
Recycling Rate Study).

Kids Yogurt 6-Packs
In 1995, Stonyfield Farm introduced the first yogurt created for children in 
bulk size (32 oz) containers. At this time, 4 oz single-serving size 
containers were the standard. Significantly less expensive on a per serving 
basis, our 32 oz size proved to be a dollar value for families. It also used 
less packaging than our competitors' products.

Since we launched our innovative children's yogurts, we have been inundated 
with mail and calls from parents who love the product, but want a 
single-serving size. We felt that we could no longer ignore the overwhelming 
requests from our customers. After much deliberation, we resolved to offer a 
choice--our economical 32 oz cups or our yogurt 6-packs with six 4 oz 
single-serving cups.

In developing our 6-pack, we worked closely with our suppliers to minimize 
the packaging. Our suppliers developed a new plastic mold to ensure that the 
cup would be lightweight. To further reduce material, we used a thin plastic 
seal vs. a lid on each cup, and we completely avoided the use of 
energy-intensive aluminum seals that are common among our competitors. The 
cardboard wrap is made from recycled paperboard with a minimum of 82% post 
consumer waste.

The Future
Polypropylene yogurt containers are by no means our vision of the ideal 
packaging. We eagerly anticipate the day when packaging exists which through 
its manufacture, transportation, use, and recycling back into our resource 
base, will not create wastes that pollute our waters, emit greenhouse and 
ozone damaging gases, and deplete our natural resources. Our ideal packaging 
may mean that when you're finished eating your yogurt, you'll consume the 
delicious and nutritious container, or toss it onto your compost pile to 
return to its carbon roots.

However, we believe that given current technologies, that we are using the 
lightest weight, least environmentally impactful packaging available to 
deliver our finest product to you. We will continue to research and develop 
new packaging which uses fewer materials, is more renewable resource-based, 
and is made with less toxic and environmentally impactful processes and 
materials. In the meantime, if you're out of ways to reuse the cups and if 
(#5) plastic recycling isn't available in your community, you may return your 
CLEAN Stonyfield Farm cups and lids to us, and we'll be sure they'll get 
recycled. Send them to Stonyfield Farm, 10 Burton Drive, Londonderry, NH 
03053.
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