Consumerist Packaging

I have been re-cycling since I can remember the reduce-reuse-recycle scheme started in Wales (UK).  The current set up for re-cycling in my area is weekly collections of boxes dedicated to glass, plastic and metals, paper and cardboard and I know that is more than some places offer, but looking at my waste and what ends up in my bin week in, week out, is food packaging – plastics that are otherwise unable to be recycled or are refused to be recycled by my local council.

What is the plastic I’m talking about?  Well, can rings – those pesky 4 holed pieces of plastic designed to keep cans together, plastics that crates of cans are wrapped in, cellophane, crisp wrappers, dried dog food bags, pizza wrap, salad bags, produce bags (whether that is bags for loose veg and fruit or pasta and cereal bags – I use the term loosely), carrier bags  basically any plastic that is put over something to contain it or keep it together.  When I have placed this kind of plastic in my re-cycling box it has been left by the collectors time and time again and its really frustrating as I’m sure some, if not all this kind of plastic can be re-cycled.

What seems to be the main problem?  For me its not so much the plastic but how it is used, and from what I can see it is used excessively in the food packaging industry.  Like, for example, why does a box of tea bags then need to be wrapped in a cellophane skin?  Its not stopping the product getting damp or spoiled by scent or taste transfer from other products, why do tins need to be placed in cardboard boxes and then wrapped in plastic? its not helping the product sty together any more than if it was just contained in the cardboard box, why do cereals need to be wrapped in plastic and then placed in plastic boxes? and why do dvds, games and cd’s need to be boxed in plastic cases that are then wrapped in cellophane?  Some packaging really does not make sense.

What can we do about it?  Well, I have a few thoughts on this that I have been mulling over…

  1. Make excess packaging the supermarkets problem – at first this idea may not make a dent in how things are packaged, but if we persevere then maybe things will change.  My idea – leave the excess packaging at the store for them to dispose of – the excess plastic around crates of cans, the can rings, strip your shopping of these things at the till and leave behind.  Maybe when the stores have to start paying for removal of the packaging themselves they will take into account what we have to deal with ourselves and start talking to their suppliers about packaging.  You could take this one step further and bring your own containers to decant products into, products like cereals, rice, oats, flour, tea bags, coffee.  There is no point in stores offering re-fill packs of coffee and sugar when the packaging can not be re-cycled easily.
  2. Shop elsewhere that offers bulk buy produce, places like Costco, and Macro that offer larger volumes of product, at least in that way you are getting more product for the waste that is produced.  Better still, how about local markets?  Buy loose products, fruit, veg, herbs & spices, teas and other produce there and not only make a dent in the waste produced but you also support local business and have, mainly, local produce to boot!
  3. When buying loose produce then use your own hand made produce bags to put items in, google how to make your own produce bags – there a re loads of ideas about how to make them, from upcycling old net curtains to making bags from newspaper.  Say no to the convenience of plastic and think ahead to what you will be shopping for.
  4. And finally, maybe write to all the stores you shop in and ask for the kinds of thing featured in the video below (which was on my facebook timeline)  why not buy all produce loose and provide our own containers?


How are you making a difference?