Greenwashing and Eco-friendly Metals

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Green, Product Developments

Have you ever heard the term greenwashing? I admit I had not (though I should have given my general distrust of pretty much most marketing messages). When I shop and see a cereal label that says 75% organic, am I a heel for falling for it? No, I laugh and just assume marketing gimmick. Greenwashing, according to Enviromedia Social Marketing and the University of Oregon, relates to, when a company or organization spends more time and money claiming to be green through advertising and marketing than actually implementing business practices that minimize environmental impact. These two organizations (the social marketing company and the university) have gone so far as to create a Greenwashing Index to rate the b.s. factor in ads touting environmental qualities. Okay, to make this real, let me provide a sense of what some of the worst offenders do:

You get the point. So guess who found themselves in the middle of a greenwashing campaign? Lil ole Reynolds Wrap¦you know, the stuff in the drawer next to your stove? In this blog from US News and World Report, writer Maura Judkis de-bunks the criticism made of Reynolds, specifically that it’s 100% recycled aluminum, 100% recycled paperboard packaging and 100% Reynolds tough, is basically, not new. But Judkis says she talked to Reynolds who said, “Until recently, reliable and high quality sources of recycled aluminum have been inconsistent and not to the standard we require for the strength and durability of Reynolds Wrap,” said a spokesperson for Reynolds. The un-recycled foil is made from virgin aluminum made from bauxite.

We would add that because aluminum foil requires such high purity (e.g. .99%), it can be difficult to find scrap and re-melt materials which will meet the desired chemical composition. However, there are companies who produce foil from a melt mix of primary and scrap to make continuous cast coils. We would surmise though that the big household foil players (Reynolds, Norandal) have traditionally smelted and rolled foil from raw materials (as opposed to recycled products).  Here is an FAQ from Reynolds. So, the greenwashing critique seems unduly harsh. Score one for the metals industry.

I suspect we’ll see plenty more metal eco-friendly/green innovations. Drop us a line if you think we ought to cover any of them. In the meantime, I think I better be careful about what I greenwash!

–Lisa Reisman

Comments (10)

  1. Grace says:

    Hmm, so the recycled aluminum we have been using for decades in soda cans is not ‘food-safe’ purity level?

    Have you talked to any other aluminum users in the food industry besides Reynolds?

  2. admin says:

    The purity required for various forms/grades of aluminum relates to the chemical properties of the metal (and its intended end use). The % of aluminum content does not relate in any way to ‘food save’ purity level. In other words, most aluminum foil (because of its ductility, gauge and performance requirements) requires high purity aluminum. Can stock has different properties and is more readily recycled. Both Stuart and Lisa came from the aluminum industry and have worked with many food industry firms. We did not speak to anybody for this article. LAR

  3. Grace says:

    So you’re saying that they use raw bauxite so they can precisely control the alloy composition for optimal ductility for food wrap? (I am assuming Reynolds can control gauge with their process.)

    Why can’t they do that with recycled Al? What non-separable impurities interfere with the desired ductility?

  4. htsetti says:

    Have you heard of eco-friendly magnets? As far as I know they are made from alloys, which are of course mined, but some factories say they pass an environmental protection standard and/or have recycled magnets. Has anyone heard of this?

  5. John Sluder says:

    How much % of aluminum is in Reynolds Wrap and how much is paper and other products?

  6. Awesum Ray of Light from Australia says:

    that is really interesting…. is Reynolds Wrap an aluminium foil or what?? We don’t have Reynolds in Australia…

  7. Asdfghjkl says:

    What is a hard metal?

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