Plastics – recycled or otherwise – are ultimately derived from crude oil or natural gas reserves, this means that the plastics industry is inextricably linked to the petroleum industry, in turn, this means that using plastics helps to keep the cost of oil high. High oil prices not only de-incentivise the development of more environmentally friendly alternatives to the use of gas and oil but also play a key role in justifying the exploration of marginal oil reserves such as the Athabasca tar sands, by incredibly destructive means. The mutually supporting integration of these industries was not considered by a recent, high-profile study by the Danish Environmental Protection Agency which concluded that plastic bags (LDPE) were more environmentally friendly than bags made of cotton or other ‘natural’ materials.
By contrast to plastics, paper, card and other plant-derived materials support increased forestry and decreased extraction. Where forestry is undertaken considerately it provides habitats for wildlife and acts as a significant carbon sink, removing greenhouse gasses from the environment and countering man-made climate change. While these do not apply to Human Food outer packaging material which are either recycled or use byproducts of other industries, many certification programs exist which monitor forestry projects, the most well-known of these are FSC (Forest Stewardship Council) and PEFC (Program for the Endorsement of Forest Certification).