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November 2000 Planet Main
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The Planet

by Johanna Congleton

Bakery Worker Cooks Up Recycling Campaign

Each Sunday, Mark Tripp rises early to clean equipment and take out the trash at a Fred Meyer baking plant in Clackamas, Ore. One morning, despite the sleep in his eyes, he noticed that some of the 50-pound flour bags were lined with plastic and some were not - even though they all contained the same ingredient. The unlined flour sacks could be recycled, but those lined with plastic went to the landfill with the rest of the trash.

"I stood there scratching my head wondering why over half of these bags couldn't be recycled because they had plastic liners that aren't even necessary," said Tripp.

Tripp did some research and found that of the 200 million flour bags produced each year nationwide - made of the same fiber as grocery bags - 60 percent contain the unnecessary plastic lining. He calculated that if all of these bags were recycled, more than 2 million 20-foot-tall, 12-inch-diameter trees could be saved each year.

And the environmental savings don't end with trees. Tripp says in order to make new flour sacks, wood chips are soaked in chemicals to break down the fibers - a process that requires an enormous amount of water and energy. The fibers in unlined flour bags can be recycled up to seven times before they become unusable.

"We could save more than 2 billion gallons of water per year - enough to fill 7,079 acres with one foot of water - if we could bypass the soaking process," said Tripp. "Also, the energy saved could supply 1.5 million homes with energy for one month. And we'd be keeping more than 1 million cubic yards of recyclable fiber out of landfills."

So what did Tripp do with all this information? He called the Sierra Club and spoke with Carol Porto, the former conservation chair for the Oregon Chapter.

"She urged me to draft a report of my research," said Tripp. "The only problem was that my typewriter was broken and I don't have a computer, so I had to hand-write the entire 27-page report."

The Club's National Waste Committee is now collaborating with Tripp to send a letter - typed on a computer - to the 1,600 large, wholesale bakeries in the United States urging them to use unlined flour bags. All the bakeries have to do to make the switch, the letter says, is call their vendors.

So what about the 29,000 smaller, retail bakeries that won't be reached by the Club's letter? Tripp figures that if enough activists simply ask their local bakeries to use flour sacks that aren't lined with plastic, all the bases could be covered.

"Mark's proposal is very focused and winnable, and provides a good opportunity to involve Club members," said Jane Williams, chair of the Club's National Waste Committee. "Recycling is already something our activists do at home - encouraging their local bakeries to do the same is easy. It's not like we're asking an oil refinery to shut down."

Tripp also wanted to ensure that a switch to recyclable, unlined bags would benefit the bakery business as well as the environment. He contacted flour-bag manufacturers so see how his proposal would affect the industry, and was pleasantly surprised to learn it would actually help business - unlined bags are cheaper and quicker to produce.

Bakeries could also increase their profits by using unlined bags: Trash pickup fees would decrease while paper-recycling revenue would climb.

"It's really a win/win situation," said Williams. "We want to work cooperatively with the baking industry to change its practices in a way that can benefit everyone."

Sound a little far-fetched? Just look what Mark Tripp has accomplished so far - by himself.

To Take Action: Call or write your local bakeries and ask them to use flour bags that aren't lined with plastic. Remind bakers that all they need to do is call their vendor and request unlined bags, and that there are potentially enormous environmental savings involved. Also, contact the Retailer's Bakery Association and urge them to support the use of unlined flour bags. Write: The Retailer's Bakery Association, 14239 Park Center Drive, Laurel, MD 20707-5261; (800) 638-0924 or

For More Information: Contact Jane Williams at (661) 273-3098;

Fish and Wildlife Proposes to Reduce Wolf Protections

by Christine Phillips, Sierra Club Associate regional representative

More than any other animal, the wolf is a symbol of wild America. After being extirpated in much of its former range in the early 1900s, the gray wolf has been making a comeback in recent decades due to Endangered Species Act provisions.

However, the exciting progress made in wolf recovery is now seriously jeopardized by a new proposal from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. The agency intends to prematurely weaken protections for the gray wolf in areas where wolves have made a comeback, and to eliminate provisions that would make it possible to re-establish wolves in other key areas of the nation's wildlands, such as the woods of the Northeast or Colorado.

In 21 states, including California and Nevada, all federal protections would be eliminated. By taking wolves off the Endangered Species List in these areas there would be no incentive for Fish and Wildlife to reintroduce, or work to support, naturally recovered wolves.

In another 18 states, the agency plans to significantly weaken protections. Wolves in these areas would be considered "threatened" rather than "endangered." Protections would be taken away, even in places where wolf populations have recently declined, such as in northwestern Montana. The proposal would allow Fish and Wildlife to enact special regulations - called Section 4(D) rules - making it even easier for wolves to be legally killed by private individuals as well as agency personnel.

The proposal does not affect the Mexican gray wolf in the southwest, wolves in Alaska, the red wolf in the southeastern states, or wolves in the Yellowstone area or central Idaho that are currently considered "experimental/non-essential" since the reintroduction program in the mid-90s.

But the gray wolf needs help everywhere else.

TO TAKE ACTION: Write to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service before Nov. 13. Tell the agency you oppose its plan because it will destroy the progress made so far on wolf recovery and will doom efforts to reintroduce wolves to their native ranges. Some specific points to make:

  • Regional recovery plans are needed for the southern Rockies, the Northeast and California, Washington, Oregon and Nevada. Each of these regions has suitable habitat and prey for wolves and the agency should focus on finding ways to recover them in these areas.

  • Wolves in the northern Rockies should not be "downlisted" until the original recovery goals have been met: Ten breeding pairs for three years in each of Idaho, Yellowstone and northwest Montana.

  • In general, it is already too easy for wolves to be "taken" - harassed or killed; Fish and Wildlife should focus on protecting existing wolf populations rather than making it easier for these wolves to be shot.

Send comments to the Content Analysis Enterprise Team, Wolf Comments, 200 East Broadway, P.O. Box 7669, Room 301, Missoula, MT 59807. Or e-mail to (you must include "wolf comments" in subject line); or fax to (406) 329-3021. Comments must be received by Nov. 13. 

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