By decade's end, Prudential insurance policies, Johnson & Johnson Band-Aid boxes and Time Warner's billion copies of magazines a year may all be made of recycled paper, under a project announced yesterday by these and other companies working with the Environmental Defense Fund.
The project, which will start with feasibility studies, is aimed at reducing the burden on landfills and pumping up the anemic market for recycled paper by creating demand for billions of dollars worth of secondhand pulp.
The undertaking resembles an effort that the Environmental Defense Fund and McDonald's Corp. announced in August 1990 to look into packaging disposal in the fast-food business. That led McDonald's to replace its plastic foam hamburger boxes with a less bulky paper wrapper.
McDonald's has also joined the new alliance. The other members are NationsBank Corp., the country's fifth-largest banking company, and Duke University.
Traditionally, environmental groups have relied on lawsuits and influence with regulatory agencies to further their goals.
But John Ruston, a solid-waste expert at the Environmental Defense Fund, a leading nonprofit group in the field, said the coalition was formed as a signal to paper companies that if they make environmentally friendly paper, the buyers will come.
Customers like Prudential, which spends $300 million a year on paper, are hard to ignore.
"The paper industry is the most capital-intensive one in the United States," he said.
"They are not going to invest in new technology without the assurance of demand," he said.
Currently, of the 22 million tons of printing and writing paper produced in the nation each year, only about 6 percent comes from paper that has been recycled from trash.
The alliance is forming as the Clinton administration is preparing an executive order that is expected to direct federal agencies to buy paper with increasing levels of recycled material.
The federal government buys 300,000 tons of paper a year.
The Clinton order, expected after Labor Day, may also include incentives against buying paper bleached with chlorine and chlorine compounds.
Environmental groups have been increasingly critical of the use of chlorine in bleaching wood pulp because of the toxic emissions from the process.
Although the EDF Fund did not address the chlorine issue yesterday, it did say that its effort would include looking at the way paper is made. The group said it was focusing on paper because paper products make up one-third of all municipal trash.
Mr. Ruston said the companies in the group were selected for their size and diversity.