We use cardboard and paper-based packaging so often in our daily lives, but many people do not know where it all comes from. Why should you care? It is okay if you recycle right? What if I were to tell you that your Friday night pizza box was actually the product of the process that was killing thousands?
In the beginning, it just started with the universally known fact; that cardboard is a product of trees. I interviewed several customers and workers at the local pizza shop, in hopes that the consumers and workers of pizza would know which trees those were. However, not a single person was able to clarify further than “it just comes from trees.”
Many people believe that manufacturers of paper and paper-based products are sourcing their trees from plantation farms, trees specifically grown for the purpose of cutting down. Whilst most international companies do abide by laws set by councils, such as the EU Timber Regulation (EUTR) and the Forest Stewardship Council (F.S.C), many of them do not. Consequently, this means that many of your favourite internationally packaged brands may actually be packaged in the skin of native forests around the world, forests that thousands are fighting governments to protect.
The deforestation of tropical rainforests, such as the Amazon, is contributing to global warming which is increasing at a dangerous rate. It is also the cause for much loss of livelihoods for thousands, and death of thousands more native animals. This is what volunteers from the World Wildlife Foundation (WWF) are dedicated to stopping.
There was an undercurrent of mystery when I was investigating the origins of cardboard. I called multiple companies with no answer, and received only one reply to all my emails sent. The reply was from an art branded paper company that shall remain nameless, who stated to believe in my mission to encourage readers to question the norm but politely refused to, as doing so “would reveal our recipe to competitors”. Why should it be so hard, as a consumer in Australian society which claims to be greener than most, to be able to find out where my packaging is sourced from? It made me question what they had to hide?
The answer was the Amazon.
The South American rainforest, that is widely known to be the largest source of the world’s oxygen, is in your pizza box.
One of my only successful interviews was with the local pizza shop owner. Monash students have been coming to his shops for years, so he jumped on board with the investigation when I came to him. Within 2 weeks, he called me with his results.
His supplier ships from Egypt, but according to the supplier, the wood is cut, pulped and shaped in Brazil in three forms. The first, pine wood from their plantation, is Australian Pine. Secondly, all that recycled cardboard you and the rest of the world recycle is rotated through the packaging system, being pulped down again but at a lower quality than the original pine. And finally, thousands of pizza boxes are being made with the logs of the Amazonian Rain Forest.
Are we really okay with not knowing, with accepting what has been our everyday normal without questioning the origins?
I don’t think so. We are university students, and learning about and investigating our world is what we are here to do.
We can protect the future of our Earth, just by starting small with pizza boxes.
But we can’t do it whilst being in the dark.
It all starts with a simple question.