Plastic as Planet-Saving "Natural Resource" Advertising to Recycle an Industry's Reality
In an Environmental Challenge Fund print ad, a photograph frames the ocher-colored angles of two pyramids against the contrasting background of a deep blue Egyptian sky as it juxtaposes the pyramids, a striking image of timelessness and human ingenuity, with what some see as the modern world's symbol of engineered durability, the polystyrene "clamshell." The headline claims, "Your cheeseburger box will be around even longer." The copy block continues, "Most things made on this planet last a few centuries. But styrofoam is forever. It will never decompose. Never disintegrate. Never go away. And neither will the garbage problems it creates, unless we find solutions."
The pyramid/cheeseburger box ad began running in Time in November 1990, about the same time McDonald's USA President Edward A. Rensi announced the company's response to boycotts by environmentally concerned consumers: "Although some scientific studies indicate that foam packaging is environmentally sound, our customers just don't feel good about it. So we're changing" ( Hume, 1991). The fast-food chain's change spelled victory for grade-schoolers in the 800 chapters of Kids Against Pollution. In addition to a standard letter-writing campaign, these young activists also mounted a Send-It-Back effort; they mailed greasy polystyrene containers to local McDonald's stores or to the company's headquarters in Illinois ( Castro, 1990). Kids Against Pollution celebrated, but overall reaction to the announcement was mixed.