Fast Talk: Trashing Trash

Shannon Boase sells recycled produce containers. Getting retailer buy-in isn't the problem.

Shannon Boase

Founder and president, Earthcycle Packaging
Vancouver, British Columbia

Malaysian farmers were damaging the environment by burning husks left over from harvesting palm-oil fruits. Boase, 41, commercialized technology to turn palm fiber into home-compostable, biodegradable containers. Her year-old Earthcycle packages already cradle fruits and veggies in Wal-Mart and Kroger stores. Here, Boase argues why consumers have to be more cognizant of their trash.

"Do you know how consumers got motivated to take responsibility for their waste in Europe? Governments taxed them. In Switzerland, for example, you're allowed a certain number of bags of garbage a week. Anything above that and you pay. I don't think that would happen in North America.

To persuade distributors to use our packaging, all I have needed to do is put one of our products in their hands and it's intuitive. They say, 'Yes, this is it.' They love that it's a nonpetroleum product. It's from a sustainable resource. And it's competitive with plastic clamshells. The thing is, consumers like those clamshells. They feel they need to see if the fruit or tomatoes on the bottom are bad. The consumer has to be educated that with visibility, there is a cost. It's the cost of disposal and the cost of landfill. We need to be able to quantify that, to show the consumer that there is no place called 'away.' It ultimately will come back to us in some way, and we continually have to pay for that—the landfills, managing the landfills, the runoff from them, the environmental hazard they're creating. That's the main part of the education for us. We have to make them feel bad for buying this stuff and throwing it out."

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