Saturday, 10 October 2015

Too much packaging!!

I am very often writing blog posts on the spur of the moment lately, but I realised something just last week that I knew I'd have to eventually expand into a post on here. You see, today I'm going to talk about packaging.

Yes, you read right - I'm going away from films and books and Hugh Grant mentions and even away from 'life' itself which has been a frequent topic of late - and delving into a more-serious issue. Because you see, I believe in recycling and I always have a recycling garbage bag ready on hand in the house for all those junk items that quickly find themselves in the bin. You are probably thinking of junk mail and well, I do get quite a bit of that (no, I did not put a sticker on my letterbox saying 'no junk mail please' because I do look through all the magazines I get sent and tear out adverts of stuff that I know I am going to eventually get round to buying/getting quotations for as well as checking any supermarket offers that are on). But added to all the paper items that make their way from letterbox to our dining table (which is their 'station' where I go through them before discarding) to that grey bag, I also find myself almost daily throwing plastic and carton packaging into the mix. Just to give you an idea, I took this photo of just two days' worth of packaging that I was about to throw into the bin (in fact that was the day I had my 'eureka' moment).

You might argue that it's not our fault that factories are 'using' so much packaging on their products and that you do your bit by recycling rather than throwing it all away. I can very clearly hear the marketing gurus advising me that it's all about selling your product and that presentation is key. Students of design will also put their two cents' worth in by advising that colour is key and different kinds of stuff is more easily saleable when it's packaged in certain colours (I was once a design student myself so I know exactly what they mean). However the point remains that in a world that is constantly harping about taking care of the earth, we should be striving to use up less resources and throwing away less things that take even hundreds of years at times to decompose totally.

What upsets me even more is that some decisions taken in recent years in our country only serve to make the situation worse. A few years ago saw the introduction of a penalty tax on plastic bags given out by shops to customers. The idea was to dissuade people from using the disposable bags at all, instead turning to reusable cloth bags. However, as people tend to, they found this a hard habit to crack and were complaining about it at first. As obviously always happens, the shopkeepers tried to appease their clients and so they found the loophole. The law referred to plastic bags with handles and so they started giving out plastic bags without!! As a result, customers kept getting their free bag, which now was of no use to anyone after the trip as the handle-less bags are not comfortable to carry (and easily break as I realized when I tried punching handles in them myself.) So guess where that leads us? Back to the recycling bin rather than storing them for reuse, which people did used to do.

Another example relates to soft drink bottles. Whereas soft drinks used to be bottled in glass containers that could be returned, washed and reused, it is now illegal to be found with a glass bottle outside of the house. As a result, factories have turned to bottling up anything in plastic containers or metal cans... both of which are thrown away rather than returned for reusing.

The same idea of reusing used to hold true of plastic egg packaging. For a while after these
small plastic egg holders came into being, they could be returned to the seller for a small refund and, I assume, get reused. After only a little while this policy changed and now you cannot return these hard-wearing containers for reuse. So what to do with them? I started looking at them with a sorry expression on my face and then throwing them into the recycling bin. That's till I noticed that the greengrocer shop selling eggs that's closest to me would get the eggs in big cartons and then give out the smaller orders in paper bags (which is quite a risky business given the contents we're discussing). After I found myself going home from the shop always with one broken egg due to this new system, I figured I should keep the plastic holders from when I buy them at the supermarkets and take them with me to the greengrocer for refilling. I started noticing, too, that the greengrocer would try to get hold of such containers. So in the end, I decided it was worth my keeping all egg plastic containers, even if I'd been multiple times to buy them from the supermarket, and I would take them all to the greengrocer's (who of course understands that I might be buying my food elsewhere when I go to a big store to get everything from one place). So every time I'm buying eggs from the shop around the corner, I take all my 'saved' containers to him, telling him to fill up one or two of the smaller ones with my own order and to "keep the rest" for others. Imagine if everyone were to do that, just how many less 'new' containers would have to make their way out of the plastic factory and onto the garbage heap.

Meanwhile my son reuses quite a few carton boxes and trays such as the ones from cereal packets and Kinder snacks for his crafty creations so at least those too get to give a little more service in our home before going anyway into the recycling bag.

Have you any other ideas yourself as to how we could reduce through reuse before recycling in the end?

1 comment:

  1. Excellent article by Gisele.
    Some remarks:
    Not producing waste is always better than recycling because the latter takes up energy and has its environmental impacts.
    Some decisions which at first glance seem taken to protect the environment are in reality protectionist measures. Such as the case of the soft drink in glass law which we had some years ago. Now, all producers of packaging have an obligation to recycle most of the packaging they produce.