We all met on a mist covered field at dawn just after a full moon. Each participant could pick the melee weapon of their choice. A duck (Earl) officiated the process and had right of refusal for all rules as Earl saw fit.
Standing at one end of the field of honor was E. Scott Santi, Chairman & Chief Executive Officer for ITW. At the other end was Nancy Baker, International Sales Manager for PakTech.
Santi chose the katana. Baker chose the gas powered chainsaw. Earl quacked loudly, and dropped the handkerchief to begin the bout. Who emerged victorious from this most glorious of contests? First, some history.
In the 1950’s one of ITW’s inventors came up with the idea of the classic plastic can holder that we all grew up with. This used a minimal amount of plastic, performed its function well, and generally was left alone for decades. However, nobody recycled anything back then. So by the 1980’s and certainly the 1990’s this creation was popping up everywhere. As the environmental movement gained steam, we’ll all remember hearing and seeing how many ducks were slain by this product. But the product worked, and so the solution offered to humanity was not to ban the plastic holder, but to cut it up prior to throwing it away so wildlife couldn’t be snared within its death jaws.
However, in the early 1990’s (in PakTech’s case 1991) smart people saw this situation as a business opportunity. Thus was born the solid molded form plastic can holder that you see far more often today. This is what PakTech makes. Its (usually black) plastic holders carry the canned beer from just about any craft beer company on the planet that doesn’t put their cans inside a paper box. PakTech even goes through the trouble on their website to explain how their holders are not just better than the old ITW version, but also more environmentally friendly than the paper six pack box.
The examples I used in this most intense study (where I consulted three MIT engineers, a pair of preeminent environmental activists, a blue whale named Betty, and the Ethiopian immigrant who sells me most of my beer) I had an ITW can holder that held old style classic and tasty Yuengling. This makes sense, Yuengling is older than anybody else, and isn’t looking to be flashy. The PakTech version held a six from one of my local craft breweries who has every interest in their branding to appear more environmentally supportive than your average elder brewery.
But wait, hold on here. We at TAP love to question assumptions. Just how lethal are ITW’s original plastic holders to the planet’s poor creatures? National Geographic does a pretty good summary.
The original numbers of the dead was supposed to number six figures each year but nobody seems to know where that number came from, as in, it was made up. Since 1994 the EPA mandated that the ITW style holder be biodegradable. This means it’ll biodegrade in about 700 years. It also means it’s worthless in terms of plastic recycling ability, and it still ends up with plastic particles in the ecosystem. The article also lists some very wacky replacement solutions to the ITW design which sound stupid and make one admire the sound business acumen of PakTech who built a realistic and useable design.
But let’s go ahead and take the article at face value. And then multiply it ten times. Thus we estimate that in a given year the ITW design viciously strangles one million ducks per year. Compare this to the over ten million ducks that are shot by hunters every year. You do the math, and determine just where the threat to wildlife really is. I’m not against hunting, but if you’re an environmental type, where is your time better spent, beer can holders or shotgun rounds?
Our belligerent conclusions:
– It’s pretty obvious that the ITW design uses way less plastic up front, we’ll say only 5% as a rough estimate. [katana slash across the cheek by Mr Santi]
– But the ITW design can’t really be recycled and requires the user to cut it up prior to throwing it away. [Ms Baker powers up chainsaw]
– The PakTech design uses way, way more plastic up front and requires confidence in the user (and their local jurisdiction) to recycle it properly, otherwise it’s just a huge piece of landfill that’ll take 7,770 years to biodegrade. [katana pierce into the belly by Mr Santi]
– But the PakTech design is completely recyclable and does not require the user to cut it up, it can be just tossed into the bin alongside the cans that held your tasty, tasty beer. [chainsaw rips through shoulder of Mr Santi]
– Earl quacks: “Who gives a fuck?” [Mr Santi lowers katana; Ms Baker powers down chainsaw; both are panting, exhausted, and covered in blood]
There are positives and negatives to both these products. Both perform their function well. Both have attributes that are meant to aid the environment. But the key fact is, in order to complete their purpose to the end stage, it’s the end user that must complete the process. As in, you. If you use ITW, and you don’t cut it up at the end, you have failed. If you use PakTech and don’t recycle properly, you have failed.
This is just fine by me. Because instead of shouting online or protesting or whatever, it just comes down to sound, simple actions by individual humans. Each individual can make a difference just by doing their job. Buy ITW, or PakTech, or a paper six pack box, whatever, just do your job at the end and the cycle works.
Just try to avoid buying beer in bottles though. Why? Ah, more on that later.
[Earl quacks loudly] [Earl draws firearm, a Colt 1911; proceeds to rob two injured big shot corporate suits at gunpoint; flies away] [Earl is spotted at The Hen Pub & Grille later getting blitzed with a swan, a goose, and a komodo dragon]