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.

The American Match Industry – Part 1

The market for “lights’ in the United States evolved throughout the twentieth century from wooden stick matches to paper book matches. In the early decades of the century, wooden matches were well established throughout most of the world, thanks in large part to the monopolistic empire of the infamous Swedish financier Ivar Kreuger.  Without the rise of Swedish Match and Ivar Kreuger’s thirst for profits, the global match industry would look much different today.   

However, in North America, a different trend emerged.  Paper book matches took hold because they were less expensive to produce, and the matchbook cover was ideal for advertising. By the 1940’s, the give-away matchbook was firmly established as a highly effective and cost-efficient advertising medium. During the war years, matchbooks were used for patriotic messages

Striking Facts: 

  • By the mid 1970’s – the match industry’s peak years – there were at least a dozen independent match companies in the U.S. and Canada operating over 25 different factories.  
  • Each factory had their own product focus: 
  • Some factories produced only book matches,  
  • while others produced both wooden and book. 
  • Some factories produced only promotional advertising matches, 
  •  and others produced commodity resale matches for grocery stores and for distribution wherever tobacco products were sold.  
  • The industry employed over 2,000 workers and the market for book matches alone was estimated to be more than 35 billion matchbooks per year – that’s 700,000,000,000 lights! 
  • Before 1970, disposable butane lighters did not exist. By 1985, lighters had taken 50% of the lights market from matches causing half the match factories to close. By the end of the century, disposable lighters had captured about 95% of the market. Soon thereafter, D.D. Bean & Sons Co. in Jaffrey, New Hampshire and Atlas Match Corp. in Euless Texas were the only two remaining book match producers left in North America.  
  • In 2016, D.D. Bean & Sons Co. acquired Atlas Match to become the sole survivors in this great American industry. D.D. Bean continued to produce resale matchbooks at its factory in New Hampshire and Atlas continued to produce promotional matchbooks, matchboxes and coasters at the factory in Texas. 
  • By 2018, it became clear that if there was any chance of keeping the American match industry alive, the two factories would need to become one. As a result, the extremely difficult decision was made to close the Atlas factory in Texas and move the manufacturing operation to New Hampshire. 
  • Founded in 1938, D.D. Bean & Sons Co. is a third-generation family business. D.D. Bean is not only the last remaining manufacturer of matches in the United States, it is the largest producer of book matches in the world. 
  • Today, although the market for matches is much smaller, this industry still employs about 100 American workers, many career matchmakers, and some following in their parents’ and even grandparents’ footsteps over the company’s eighty-one-year history. Together, they have worked to become the survivors of this great American industry. Together, they stand determined to build a great future to carry forward to the next generation. Together, D.D. Bean and Atlas, we are America’s Match Company!