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Alexandra Paul

Alexandra Paul

Posted: March 8, 2010 05:58 PM

FedEx Office Greenwashing

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I was in a 24-hour FedEx Office (formerly Kinko's) last week because I had to copy some tax information. I was in a bad mood because I am being audited. Having to copy receipts from two years ago irritated me. So I was chewing gum, in an attempt to soothe myself. My husband hates it when I chew gum, and I don't blame him - I look like a cow chewing cud. After 5 minutes (I chew gum for the sweet taste, so once it is gone so is that piece), I cast about for a garbage can among the many blue recycling bins next to every copier. Not seeing one, I asked an employee where I could throw my gum away and he gestured to one of the blue bins overflowing with white paper. "Uh, no, this is gum, I need a garbage can" I said and he shrugged "You can still throw it in there."

There is no paper recycling at that FedEx Office.

This pisses me off. Not only does the one place that deals in more paper than any other within a 10 mile radius not recycle, they pretend they do by having containers that say "recycle."

What does an already irritated gum chewing taxpayer do? First, I confirmed with the the manager: Nope, he said, no paper recycling here, corporate decision. I then visited or called 11 FedEx Office locations in the west Los Angeles area and discovered that 5 of them don't recycle paper waste. FedEx Office is, by the way, the 7th largest printing company in North America, so that is a lot of paper going into landfills that could be re-purposed.

If almost half the FedEx Office centers in one of the wealthiest parts of California - a state which prides itself in being ahead of the curve environmentally - aren't bothering to recycle, then what are the 1800 other FedEx Office centers doing? Centers in places like the Midwest or deep South here in the United States, or China, Japan, Korea, Kuwait, Mexico and the United Kingdom?

On a lark, I called three places in Georgia, a state I figured might be a bit less eco-minded than California. It was consistent with LA's 50% non-recycling rate: one FedEx Office did not recycle, one did, and the other one only did for paper "behind the counter" but not in the public copying area.

I then contacted FedEx headquarters. I wont go into how hard it was to reach an actual person (even an operator) there, much less Mitch Jackson, the director of environmental affairs and sustainability. Finally, I left a message for Jenny Robertson in the Communications Department. She emailed me back: Center managers are encouraged to use the recycling services provided by their landlord or municipality. If that is not available, we have a contract with Waste Management... We plan to implement ongoing and routine communications to our locations informing them of their options when it comes to recycling.

She went on to inform me that Fed Ex has won many sustainability awards because it is the largest green power purchaser in the commercial printing business, because 75% of their paper choices and all their shipping packaging contain recycled content, and because they avoid buying paper from endangered forests. All of which I applaud.

But it seems to me like blatant greenwashing to state, as FedEx does on its website, that "Approximately 90% of our FedEx Office locations recycle". As far as I could tell they don't have a consistent recycling program, and, with the amount of paper thrown away at each of their stores each day, that is shameful.

I am taking my copying somewhere else, until FedEx Office cleans up its act. And I am writing to Mitch Jackson, Director of Environmental Affairs and Sustainability, to urge him to live up to that 90% recycling claim:

FedEx Office
13155 Noel Road
Dallas, TX 75240

Gum, anyone?

 

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