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?

 

 

 

 

What’s Planned for this Month

Here’s a look at some of the posts coming up on the blog this month!

  • The Environment will be looking at food packaging and ways to reduce the waste.
  • Food For Walkers will be giving some ideas for lunchboxes.
  • Best will be focusing on walking back packs
  • In Fun Things to do on Walks With Kids we will be looking at an “Alphabet Search”
  • How will be covering How to Read Maps.
  • We will be doing a Quarterly Review in this months blog posts.
  • The Health section will be looking at Heart Health and Walking

We will also be covering the usual Week in Review posts, Nature Table, Fun Facts Friday, Art, Poems and Stories and History!

Stay tuned to read all the posts!

The Environment – Micro Beads

This series will look at the environment we live in and how we can look after it and protect it for years to come.  This series came about from spending so much time outdoors and seeing the effects that man has had on where we live, what impact we have had on nature and starting my own quest on helping lessen the impact we have.  This series will cover things like pollution in the air, water and terrain, rubbish, recycling, erosion, acid rain and a whole host of other environmental concerns.

Today’s post looks at our water pollution, specifically plastics in our seas and oceans, rivers and lakes.  Plastics get into our water in many ways, from being dumped at sea to being left behind on beaches by tourists.  Whatever the way the plastics are getting there doesn’t matter, they are there and they are causing hazards and environmental damage to our Eco-systems.  What we should be doing is becoming more aware of products we use and by becoming aware, changing our habits to slow the plastics entering the water in the first place.

One of the ways that the plastics are getting into our waters is through the beauty industry adding polyethylene to face and body washes, this is a manufactured micro-plastic and these are teeny, tiny bits of plastic added to all manner of body care products to give a “scrub” effect.  I have found micro beads in hand washes, body washes, face scrubs and all manner of foot care products, products manufactured to remove hard/dead skin or marketed as complexion brighteners.  I have heard that micro-beads can be contained in toothpaste too which is worrying.  These plastics are suspended in the product and once used, get washed down the drain and float off into oceans and rivers.  They are so small that normal removal of plastics from the water is useless, the size of these particles is so small, and they just slip through.  Once in the rivers and oceans, they get consumed by unsuspecting fish that then end up in our food cycle.  This means that we then consume the plastics ourselves and it ends up inside us.

There are 2 main problems with this micro-beads usage, 1) once it gets back into the food chain and we consume it, it can stay in our systems, our natural acids can break it down and the chemicals released can cause a whole myriad of health problems, or these beads can adhere to our insides and cause cancer to form.  2) The micro-beads are left in the oceans and waterways are causing pollution and affecting sea life (both in the water and out – fish, birds, water mammals like seals and otters), it gets into their systems and can cause them to die.

That is not the end of it though, there are things we can do to change the micro beads usage and manufacture.  The biggest change we can make is to switch to scrubs that contain more natural ingredients like pumice, salt, sugar or ground nut shells.  When you want to purchase these scrubs, check the back of the pot or tube or packet and check the ingredients – look for words that end in ethane (polyethylene, polypropylene are good examples of micro beads used) and choose not to buy them.  Look for other brands that use natural scrub ingredients and use those instead, or step away from scrubs and make your own instead (there are lots of recipes on line, use search terms as “DIY natural face scrub” or “Make your own natural scrub for body/face”).  If we don’t buy into the companies that make these products then they cant make money from these products and will have to change, until then we are just going to be washing plastics down our drains, into the sewers and out into the wide world.  If we can stop this practice, one person at a time, then we will be stopping an untold amount of damage being caused further down the line.

Further reading – http://www.npr.org/sections/thesalt/2017/02/06/511843443/are-we-eating-our-fleece-jackets-microfibers-are-migrating-into-field-and-food (added to this post on 7th February 2017)