Saturday, December 20, 2014

I Prefer to Look At It As, "The Bag's Half Full"

If you’ve ever opened a brand new bag of potato chips only to find the bag half, or even a third full, you are not alone. This disappointing phenomenon is called over-packaging and greatly adds to our landfill problems in the United States. 

Potato chips aren’t the only culprit. Cereal, cookies, over-the-counter medicines, candy, toys....the list goes on and on. As The National, an online publication, reported recently, “over-wrapped food items are a principal source of the mounds of unnecessary waste that wind up in the nation's landfills. It is common to see food packaged inside cling wrap, inside a plastic container, inside a box, inside a bag. 

This overkill confronts us at the hypermarket, the fancy restaurant and the takeaway counter at the mall. Indeed, over-bagging of food items has reached epidemic levels. The issue of retailers or wholesalers over-packaging food products is harder to tackle. 

Creating laws that force suppliers to use certain types and amounts of packaging would place unnecessary financial burden on those retailers, and could prove impractical.” Although landfills take the brunt of this common practice, little is being done about it. In fact, if any of you are old enough, you remember back to when toys came in a box. A box, not a box, a blister pack, and cellophane all tied down with twist ties and string. They really don’t want that toy to move, do they? 

Granted, toys also used to consist of a piece or two...a few at the most. Now so many items we buy come with a multitude of pieces, parts and attachments. “Many of the everyday items we buy come encased in layers of packaging. But there’s plenty you can do to reduce it – follow these tips to get started: 

1. Complain about packaging. Don't buy products you think are excessively or deceptively wrapped. Complain to your supermarket or the manufacturer and contact your local trading standards department if you believe a product is excessively wrapped. Most supermarkets have customer comment boxes, or you can contact manufacturers' customer care from numbers on the backs of packets. 

2. Buy less. Before buying something, stop and think about whether you really need it. Buying less reduces our negative impact on the world by producing less waste and reducing the demand for products to be manufactured in the first place. 

3. Buy recyclable packaging.

4. Buy loose products and refills. Many products such as herbs, spices and sweeteners are sold in refill packets – so when the product runs out, you can refill the original container instead of throwing it away. Refills are often cheaper as manufacturers pass on some of the savings they make on packaging to consumers. Buying loose fruit and vegetables also reduces the amount of packaging you throw away and it's often cheaper too. 

5. Reduce packaging. by preparing meals at home It’s estimated that 50% of our food packaging waste is produced when we’re out and about. Cut your packaging consumption by making packed lunches at home in reusable containers such as lunch boxes... 

6. Reuse packaging. Some packaging can be reused over and over, preventing the need to buy more. Refill empty drink bottles when you’re out and about and carry plastic bags when you go shopping.” “The trouble is, this is a wasteful practice that has not come under scrutiny by shops, nor by the authorities. Some European countries charge customers for every plastic bag they use, which encourages people to use fewer. Bag fees are an idea worth exploring....” 

Rod Muir, waste diversion and climate change campaigner, advocates the following 4 ways to fight back: 
  1. “Reduction. Simply put, there’s too much packaging out there, and most of it is purely marketing. It’s designed to give the consumer the perception of greater value when they’re buying a product, said Muir. 
  2. Standardization. Muir said he can walk into a hardware store to buy screws or bolts and find the same products packaged in three different plastics: PET (a relatively “good” plastic that’s recyclable), PVC (a bad plastic that’s toxic to the environment) and a third kind of plastic that’s simply not identified. “What we need is standardization of packaging,” he said, because “it makes it easier to recycle. 
  3. A ban on PVC, otherwise know as polyvinylchloride. 
  4. More recycled content.” 
“In a country with such a diversity of habits, educating consumers to choose food options that are packaged in sustainable fashion will be difficult and will take time. But managing waste better, and creating less of it, requires everyone's cooperation. Reducing the amount of waste pouring out of homes and into landfills is a collective challenge.” To find out more information about recycling, visit us at

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