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KFC destroying rain forest, Greenpeace says

Greenpeace activists hung a banner on a Yum Brands Inc. building in Louisville on Wednesday. Greenpeace accused the company of using chicken boxes containing Indonesian rain forest wood and destroying the habitat of the endangered Sumatran tiger.
Greenpeace activists hung a banner on a Yum Brands Inc. building in Louisville on Wednesday. Greenpeace accused the company of using chicken boxes containing Indonesian rain forest wood and destroying the habitat of the endangered Sumatran tiger. © Greenpeace

NEW YORK — Greenpeace International said Wednesday that Louisville-based Yum Brands is making its trademark KFC chicken buckets using wood harvested from Indonesia's rain forest, destroying the habitat of the endangered Sumatran tiger.

Independent tests on food boxes purchased at stores in Indonesia, Britain and China in the past two years found fibers from tropical hardwood trees, according to a Greenpeace report. More than half the material in some KFC chicken buckets in China came from such wood, said Rolf Skar, forest campaign director for Greenpeace.

"Do consumers want to have chicken wrapped in rain forests, or is there a better way of doing business," Skar said in an interview. "A big customer like KFC, they're massive in places like China and Indonesia, they have a lot of control over where they get their paper."

Greenpeace supporters hung a sign on Yum's headquarters building in Louisville early Wednesday as part of the protest. Police and fire units were at the scene before 8 a.m., Jessa Latona, a Greenpeace spokeswoman, said in an email.

Louisville police spokesman Dwight Mitchell said nine people were cited for trespassing, the Associated Press reported. Mitchell said four protesters who scaled the building also were cited with criminal mischief.

Forensic tests on KFC's paper products confirm a previous Greenpeace report linking the fast-food chain to deforestation. Greenpeace hired the Institution for Paper Science and Technology in Darmstadt, Germany, and Integrated Paper Service in Appleton, Wis., to test for fibers in Yum's food packages. Seven out of 10 food boxes from the United Kingdom show rain forest fiber, according to the report.

Yum buys packaging from Sinar Mas Group's pulp-paper unit, which Greenpeace said has been logging in the rain forests.

Jonathan Blum, a spokesman for Yum, in an email said 60 percent of the paper purchased by the company is from sustainable forests, with suppliers aiming for 100 percent. The Greenpeace protest is a "publicity stunt," Blum said.

Food packaging should have "the least impact on the environment as possible," Yum said in a 2010 report. Yum owns and franchises more than 37,000 restaurants worldwide.

Nestle and Unilever stopped buying palm oil from Jakarta-based Sinar Mas, the parent of Asia Pulp & Paper, after Greenpeace said the company was destroying Indonesian rain forests for palm-oil plantations. The environmental group urged Yum and other companies to stop buying from Asia Pulp & Paper.

More than 60 companies have either ended supply contracts with Asia Pulp & Paper or sold their shares, Latona said.

Asia Pulp & Paper also is logging ramin trees, a species protected by Indonesia and the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Flora and Fauna, Greenpeace said in a March report. The work is pushing the Sumatran tiger, protected under international conservation programs, closer to extinction, Skar said.

"We welcome the recent report from Greenpeace International and will study it carefully to ensure that we identify and act on any weaknesses in our chain of custody systems," Asia Pulp & Paper said in a statement after the March report. The company will work with Greenpeace and other groups on sourcing policies and practices, according to the statement.

"Certainly by now, companies should know that buying paper products from Asia Pulp & Paper brings with it a risk," Skar said.

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