Take the Match: Sustainability of Matches Over Lighters

matchbook ddbean

The choice between striking a match or using a disposable lighter does not seem like a difficult or worrying decision for consumers.  It is easy to use what is on hand at the time without really thinking about any of the consequences it has.  When consumers do not think about these decisions, it shows how these simple choices we make can have negative effects on the environment.  Sustainable matches are easily recyclable and biodegradable.

            Unlike lighters, matches are made from wood or paper, which is easily biodegradable.  Because they are biodegradable, they won’t contribute to the growing waste problem in the world.  The most common type of wood matches are made from aspen or white pine.  Each tree can create hundreds of thousands of match sticks.  For an interesting read on the history of matches, try Prelude to the American Match Industry Story.            

          Full sized lighters can burn up to an hour.  These lighters eventually run out and are turned to be thrown away. Once a lighter is disposed, it will exist in our environment forever.  After they are disposed, these lighters will be either thrown into landfills, on the streets, or swept into the ocean.  Once these lighters are disposed into the ocean, they will easily be mistaken by fish for birds to eat.  One type of bird that is strongly affected by pollution is the Laysan Albatross bird.  This bird catches fish by skimming the water with its beak.  While doing this, it picks up other debris and plastic from the ocean.  In this article about the Layman Albatross birds, there are images showing that they have consumed disposable lighters.  This will kill them quickly, once eaten.

While it isn’t a pressing decision whether to use a match or a lighter, it is an easy choice.  Matches are usually free and can be found in a lot of different restaurants and stores.  This makes them even more accessible than lighters for people.  Highly engaged community convenience stores like Wawa and Sheetz, give away the books for free to their loyal customers who may prefer a recyclable match to the plastic lighter. Take the match.

The sustainability of matches over lighters can tremendously improve how the environment is affected.  Matches are biodegradable and environmentally friendly, which makes them an easy choice over a lighter.  They are also produced in the USA, which means a smaller carbon footprint over imported disposable lighters. To learn more about the match industry and the last match factory in America read more blogs on the DDBean website.

Eliza Smith is a guest blogger and a student intern. She is studying Business at the College of Charleston in South Carolina. She loves the beach at Sullivan’s Island, and was inspired to write this blog about the impact of plastic on the oceans and the willingness to make a better choice for the environment.

American Match Industry – Part 2

We learned in Part 1, that by 2019 all the match factories that once existed in America were closed or sold, resulting in what we have today – one match factory in Jaffrey, New Hampshire.  As the sole survivor and steward to the iconic industry, we will be writing the future as we go.  But don’t worry, we have a plan.

Imagine if you were to visit the factory to see the new match operations:

“A new era of match making has emerged.  By combining the technologies of the Bean plant and the Atlas plant, all the different variations of match making methods are on display-in operating form-every day.  Because the match factories were rolling up for many years – since 1973 – the legacy of all matchmaking equipment is now bolted down to the D.D. Bean plant floor.  For example, we are running the very same equipment that was used in Canada at the Eddy Match plant, until it’s closure in 1999. 

On the shop floor you will find the best-of-the-best book match making equipment in the world.  The original D.D. Bean commodity matchbook machines are a marvel in their own right.  These matchbook or “booking” machines, run at twice the speed of any other semi-automated match-making machine ever in production.  Caddy packing is fully automated to meet the high-speed rate of the assembly machine.  The pace is rapid, but the quality – due to decades of honing the machine – is excellent.  World class.

Further down the production line, you will see the promotional and advertising matchbooks being produced on the card and flat fed machines.  Standing alongside these mechanized, synchronized, harmonized assembly machines are a team of American workers.  Each member of the team takes turns operating and packing for the machine.  Both operators are highly trained in quality control and take great pride in turning out a product our customers are delighted to own and share.

At the heart of the operation, deep inside the old brick and beam mill building, is the mixing room.  Four large kettles are filled and emptied and refilled daily, with all the match-making chemicals.  This is no easy job.  Historically, each match factory had its own formula for mixing match heads; each plant employed an official Match Chemist to monitor and modify the formula as needed.  Some plants have used robotics to blend the chemicals with electronic weighing systems. We prefer the traditional method of hand weighing and blending the chemicals.

In the mixing room, you will see important process controls, variable speed monitors, sensors, pumps.  But the key to a successful batch of match head composition is the mixer – his name is Cliff.  Years of practice and his batches come out the same every time.  We know, because we test every one.

This new era match factory employs many other specialists too.  In addition to experienced machine operators (which requires years of training because all of our machines are one-of-a-kind) and experts in mixing the match head, there is a team of mechanics and a team of printers.  Both are specialized to support the modern match plant.”

This modern match plant is the natural progression in a mature industry.  What you won’t see are the milestones between the match plant closings of the 1970’s, 80’s, and 90’s.  You won’t see the dramatic change in distribution channels when the Master Settlement Agreement (MSA) banned advertising of cigarettes on matches.  And you won’t see the progressive disappearance of a free matchbook. 

Each of these major events have inevitably jolted the industry from the path it was on to a completely new and unmarked one.  The American match-makers have risen to the challenge each time, and proven their ingenuity and perseverance by refusing to go away.  This is a story of survival. This is a story of commitment.  This is a story of an industry refusing to become obsolete.  Refusing to be eradicated by advanced manufacturing or robotics.  Refusing to be erased by imported substitute products.  We make fire.  Portable fire for everyone.  Right here in the USA.  And we will not be snuffed out.