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?







Detritus from modern life seems to line every walkway and roadside that I travel down, it has seeped into the countryside too, the filthy, mangled remains flapping in the breeze, stuck in hedgerows and trees.  It is in our seas and rivers too, a semi-see through slithering mass slipping by on the current.

However you describe it, its there, and its ugly.  It is rubbish, mostly from fast food of some description or other, cans, crisp packets, burger wrappers, straws, cups…and its everywhere, you don’t even need to look hard to find it.

How does it get there?  Some of it is dropped, whether accidental or on purpose, some of it is left behind, some of it has just not made it to the bin or fallen out again, however it got there isn’t the problem, the problem is that it is there, and while we consume these items, places will still continue to manufacture these packaging goods, and while these goods are still being manufactured they are still going to end up on the streets and in fields, causing problems for the environment and the animals that live in them.

How we can make a difference.  I believe that in order to make a difference we need to be more mindful of our consumption of these goods.  If we really put our mind to it, and ask questions about what we are buying, like “do I need a straw?”, “Is there a better way to package this?”, then we are on the right path.  Can we, for instance, do without the straw in our drink, purchase (and use more than once) a re-usable cup/travel mug for coffee, have our takeaway sandwich/burger/meal placed in reusable containers, can we carry our own cutlery instead of using throw away knives and forks?  If we start thinking, and doing this then we are on our way to reducing the amount of rubbish in our environment.

You can buy re-usable mugs in many places now, Starbucks and Costa both carry their own lines but you can purchase re-usable cups and flasks in most supermarkets ad other stores now.

If you really like using a straw, why not purchase a stainless steel one?  I really like the range on eco-straws (UK based) .  Not only will this reduce waste (and things like this (WARNING -Graphic Video) happening, it will look cool when you use it.

And finally, how about carrying these around with you to whip out when you need them?  The cutlery will come in handy next time you buy something you want to eat straight away but doesn’t come with any eating implements and, again, will slow down the waste ending up where it shouldn’t.

These are only ideas, in an ideal world we would all make our own snacks and sandwiches, pastas and salads and not rely on buying and consuming from shops and food places but if we can make a start in slowing down the production of rubbish then we are on the right tracks.  Even if we keep consuming then looking for ways to re-cycle and reuse (if possible) is a small step in the right direction instead of just dropping or leaving our waste behind once we have finished with it.

It all boils down to being more mindful and thinking about our actions.