By Rene Dial
While dining at my favorite lunchtime eatery (the food court at the mall) I looked down at the paper cup and saw three marks that had the little circle R and TM symbols indentifying the products as registered trademarks. First I was surprised that the USPTO allowed the word “Compostable” to be trademarked, then I noticed the “ecotainer” mark, then the sustainable Forestry Initiative certification.
I hate using Styrofoam cups so the marks really caught my interest. I have always heard that even paper cups contain a plastic coating that makes it no better than a Styrofoam cup when it comes to its ability to break down in the environment. Anyway, I went to the manufacturer’s website to see what they are claiming.
The first claim is that the Sustainable Forestry Initiative’s (SFI) guidelines for management and harvesting are that “No trees from old-growth or endangered forests are used.” Sounds great but the law student in me automatically thinks, what is qualified as “old-growth,” and what is an “endangered forest.” Of course we, I guess I mean I, could spend hours going over these definitions but I will save you from the pain. We will take their word that it is a good thing and my understanding is that SFI is a doing a great job promoting sustainable forest management.
The next claim is that the plastic is a biopolymer not polyethylene. A biopolymer is produced by living organisms such as plant cellulose. It would stand to reason that if it is naturally occurring that it will break down in the environment more easily that polyethylene.
Well I learned a few things just by looking at a cup. I always heard that disposable paper cups were just as bad as styrofoam cups but now I know better.
Have a great weekend!