Last week we covered how to reduce the amount of packaging you buy in the first place. But sometimes this just isn’t possible. Reusing packaging is the next best option to not using it in the first place. Extending the lifetime of packaging helps reduce the amount of new packaging produced. Here are a few tips on how to reuse packaging.
3. Skip the plastic carry bags
Of course, there are some items that can only be found at big brand stores. In this case try skipping the usual plastic carry bags for canvas or nylon bags. You can usually purchase these reusable bags at grocery store checkouts, or you can reuse the sturdier plastic carry bags that clothing stores often provide. Try keeping a few bags in your trunk, or nylon bags that fold up and clip onto your purse or backpack so they are always with you. Some grocery stores also provide cardboard boxes you can pack your groceries in. If you are just buying one or two small items, and forget a reusable bag, simply carry them out to your vehicle without one. And why stop with groceries? I’ve used reusable bags at various stores from clothing, to electronics (although you may get a dirty look from the clerk for refusing the branded plastic carry bag that turns you into a walking advertisement for their store).
When something isn’t available with zero packaging, try to choose the option with packaging that can be most easily reused. For me, I try to choose glass over plastic and cardboard. Glass mason jars are great for packaging homemade gifts and can also be used as part of your kitchen or bathroom décor. Some brands make it easy to reuse their packaging, like Quebec based La Laiterie Chalifoux which provides lids that can be used with their Riviera line of yogurts and parfaits that come in single serve sized glass jars. Pinterest is a great place to turn for other repurposing inspirations.
The Canadian company Bulk Barn recently started a reusable container program where you can bring clean plastic and glass containers such as pasta sauce jars and other food containers that would normally go in the recycling and use them to store what you purchase at Bulk Barn. The US equivalent is Bulk Nation, which recently announced it will be expanding beyond Florida with it’s first Alabama store in 2018. Bulk Nation is planning to launch a pilot reusable container program in July 2017.
5. Choose brands that reuse their own packaging
Some companies have a return program where you can either refill their packaging with more product yourself, or they will collect the packaging from their customers and repackage new products with it. One of my favourite examples of this is local milk in glass bottles. You just bring your empty bottle to the cashier at the distributing grocery store when you buy a new one and it will go back to the farm to be sterilised and refilled. Not only does the bottle get reused but some people say that milk from glass bottles tastes better and stays fresh for longer!