The Devil, in the Details

The Devil, in the Details

I like my coffee with foam. To be specific, I mean coffee made with a sweet milky froth lovingly added by a barista, not coffee served in a Styrofoam cup. Some might argue foam is foam, but the difference means something to me, and, I suspect, to Starbucks customers everywhere. Words have many meanings, and deceit is not required to make their meaning less than apparent.

Take pulp packaging, for instance. Our aim at Paper Water Bottle is for a product made largely from molded fiber/pulp, to be Backyard Compostable™, and almost infinitely sustainable, assuming the continued existence of soil and sun. But there are other examples of pulp packaging that do not come with the same set of assumptions. There’s no deceit involved—just a set of devilish details that confound our understanding of the phrase “pulp packaging.”

An example is the laminate packaging you encounter every day. Indeed, part of the appeal of simple products and at the heart of Paper Water Bottle is that they are what they seem to be on the surface: plant-based, recyclable and renewable.

Plant-based materials

Day to day, we’re exposed to laminate packaging. If you’re like me, laminating is more naturally associated with counter tops than the food you place on them. It brings to mind glue and multilayered sheets, not children’s drinks and lunchboxes. But that’s the handiest example—a drink box, commonly holding juice or a fruit punch. Other common uses include soy milk containers, soup or broth boxes, or perhaps coffee creamer.

Are they paper products? Sure, no deceit here. But they contain more materials than paper alone. Sometimes there are as many as seven layers in that box, pressed and glued together. They aren’t all paper; there’s aluminum too, in very thin amounts. That gives the box great thermal properties. There are other coatings for waterproof properties. From the outside, it looks folded and simple, almost like a milk carton. But it’s no milk carton.

The advantage is that it’s lightweight and cheap. Easy to ship, easy to shelve. And hey, it’s not made from plastic, at least, right? Aluminum is even recyclable.

Well, not quite. Paper: Easily recyclable. Aluminum: Easily recyclable. Paper and aluminum laminated together: difficult to recycle, and adds to landfills with every unit. To be clear, it’s not impossible to recycle laminated packaging, but it’s so hard and expensive as to be prohibitive across the industry.

So, while we respect the ingenuity of it, we don’t think laminated packaging hits the mark. However angelic its intentions, the devil is in the details. Laminated packaging isn’t part of a renewable cycle; it’s more of a dead end. When it comes to beating plastic, for cost, for versatility, for sustainability, what we really need is something simple, something made from truly renewable and recyclable material. That’s not a pipe dream—it’s A Refreshing Alternative™.

By |2017-07-12T00:11:02+00:00October 19th, 2015|