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A touch of gray.

A Touch Of Gray

Like any business, there are good and bad sides to the nonwovens industry. Most of the time it is fairly simple to differentiate between the good and the bad...higher raw material prices are bad, exotic new products are good, and so on.

But the delineations become a little more fuzzy, the two sides a little more gray than black and white, when the subject is the environment. Outsiders look at our business and say we make disposables. Disposable products clog up our landfills and waste our natural resources, so, just as one plus one equals two, nonwovens plus disposables equals an industry that is bad for the environment.

But then you have to take a step into higher math and factor in all of the good the nonwovens industry is doing for the environment. There are the pluses of the industry actually helping to prolong the lives of landfills, that beautify the surrounding landscape, to make the air we breathe cleaner and safer, to clean up after man's messes following the Alaskan and Persian Gulf oil spills.

All of this grayness is the result of research we recently completed for a paper presented at the EDANA Annual General Meeting in Monte-Carlo in June. The subject of the speech was, ostensibly, "The Life and Death Environmental Challenge to the Nonwovens Industry." In reality, the paper served as a reminder to ourselves that as a whole our little business is not responsible for today's environmental crisis.

When you look at the facts it can be said that nonwovens come out on the positive side of the environmental scorecard, especially when compared to other industries...magazines and newspapers for one. We are all familiar with the fact that disposable diapers account for less than 2% of garbage in a landfill. What we don't know (and the paper business certainly isn't going to tell anyone who doesn't ask) is that discarded paper, ranging from magazines to paper plates to office paper, comprises just about 50% of everything in a landfill. Almost half of those huge piles of garbage is discarded paper, yet you rarely hear a call for banning or taxing or outlawing paper products.

The message is clear for the nonwovens industry. It has nothing to be ashamed of in the environmental debate of the 1990s. Led by companies such as Procter & Gamble and a host of raw material suppliers, our industry is investing an inordinate amount of its resources into searching for solutions to the solid waste crisis. Meanwhile, diaper designs are changing while other nonwovens help preserve our environment. Many of the Top New Products recognized in this issue on pages 40 and 41 are there specifically because of the good they do for the environment.

It is time to add the equation again, with a few more points on the positive side for the nonwovens industry. Only then will the gray areas become a little whiter...almost, we dare say, as if they were filtered through a nonwoven fabric.
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Copyright 1991 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Title Annotation:environment
Author:Jacobsen, Michael A.
Publication:Nonwovens Industry
Article Type:editorial
Date:Aug 1, 1991
Words:504
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