7 Ways You Can Reduce Your Packaging Waste- Practical Tips for Consumers to Reduce, Reuse, and Recycle
The next time you buy groceries, cosmetics, children’s toys, or really any consumer product, take a look at the packaging. More than likely at least some of your vegetables are shrink wrapped on a Styrofoam tray. Your shampoo, lotion and deodorant comes in a package where at least one plastic component isn’t recyclable. That brand-new doll is wedged into a clear plastic tray, then shoved into a box that takes up three times more space that the doll itself. Ask yourself, where does all that packaging go?
Now step outside on garbage morning. The truck rolls up and dumps the garbage, metals, plastics and cardboards into the same compartment. As the boxes are hoisted up, the wind picks up and you recognise the shrink wrap that was covering your broccoli floating away down the street to decorate your neighbours garden. Later that day you take a walk down to the lake and notice a horrifying number of plastic bottles, snack wrappers and other packaging scattered throughout the water, plants, and the nearby playground.
Unfortunately, large amounts of packaging waste are incorrectly disposed of or unintentionally end up polluting our environment. According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, plastic containers and packaging generated about 14 million tons of waste in the U.S. in 2013. The average North American consumer throws out 4.4 pounds of waste every day. This seems like an overwhelming problem, but if everyone reduced their packaging waste by just 1 pound a day, annual waste would be reduced by almost 25%. Here are 7 ways you can start reducing, reusing, and recycling packaging waste in your home.
Part 1- Reducing
Reducing the amount of packaging you purchase in the first place is the most significant change you can make as a consumer. Each piece of packaging requires energy and material to make, transport, and correctly dispose of. Every dollar you spend tells companies want you want. Will you vote for excessive amounts of packaging that will most likely end up in landfill? Or will you vote for products that use minimal packaging and reflect a brand’s commitment to responsible and sustainable production?
- Buy produce locally
Buying produce locally not only helps support small businesses in your community, but often involves much less packaging than you would find in your grocery store. Instead of Styrofoam, shrink wrap and flimsy plastic bags, local farmers markets often pack their goods in wooden or cardboard boxes and baskets. And where produce is packed in plastic punnets or cartons, many vendors are more than happy for you to return these items later so that they can reuse them. You can often also find other items such as soaps, cosmetics, gifts, and more.
For those concerned about spending extra money shopping locally, not all local food is organic. The vendors also have less costs associated with transporting and packaging their products, so they can often be at least as affordable (or even more so) as the grocery store, especially for in season produce.
Choose brands and products that use minimal packaging
When you do buy from big brands, cast your vote with those that emphasis minimal packaging. Lush is one cosmetics brand that focuses on sustainability and waste reduction, with 35% of their products sold “naked”, without any packaging at all. You can also swap liquid products that require packaging (like shower gels and shampoos) for solid products (like soap and shampoo bars) that can be sold in zero or easily recyclable packaging. Instead of the pre-chopped veggies in the vacuum-packed plastic, buy whole veggies and chop them up yourself.