Virgin plastics derived from fossil fuels are non-renewable, enviromentally damaging and unsustainable. With only about 30% of recyclable plastic actually getting recycled, most plastic ends up in landfills where it takes hundreds of years to degrade. Seventh Generation used 3,270 metric tons of virgin plastic in 2010. Assuming only 30% of our packages are recycled, our company was reponsible for about 2289 metric tons of plastic ending up in landfills (or being incinerated) — in 2010 alone. This plastic will persist in a landfill for much longer than seven generations. That is not a legacy that is in keeping with our company mission.
- That is why we have committed to reducing our reliance on this finite resource by 80%, in absolute terms, by 2014. It’s a bold goal and we have a lot of work ahead of us to achieve it.
Despite our impressive success in increasing the recycled content of our plastic bottles, we are not yet making the dramatic progress necessary to attain our goal. In fact, our total virgin plastic usage has increased 34% since our 2007 baseline year (and is up 15% in the past year). There are several possible paths we could take at this point but none of them involve relaxing our goal. We have never shied away from a challenge — especially when it is something we believe in deeply.
As 67% of our virgin plastic use is in our products, not our packaging, we need to make our most dramatic changes in this area. Diapers are responsible for most of our virgin plastic use, followed by wipes. We are investigating the possibility of switching to a natural, plant-based plastic for our diapers, a significant step towards our goal. The results of a life cycle assessment of our Baby Wipes will help us select a more sustainable substrate and eliminate the virgin plastic in this product and in our Disinfecting Wipes.
We will continue to work to increase the recycled content of our plastic bottles — note that some of the improvements we made midway through 2010 or in early 2011 are not fully reflected in the 2010 calendar year data above. To effect truly radical change, we are also pursuing groundbreaking packaging innovations. Early in 2011, we unveiled our molded fiber 4X Laundry Detergent bottle which reduces plastic use 66%, as discussed in our packaging section. Learn more about this remarkable bottle from Peter Swaine, our Director of Global Strategic Sourcing.