Day Five: Plastic Packaging Waste

by Josée

Over the last few days I’ve touched upon the topic of packaging, but today I’m diving into the topic of plastic packaging waste.

Stuff is packaged for containment, protection, transportation, storage and marketing. The idea of packaging goods to conserve and keep them safe is a wonderful idea and has been done for well over thousands of years. Over the centuries there have been many ways to package goods. There have been ceramics, boxes, barrels, crates, glass, metals, cloth and paper-like products. It wasn’t until the twentieth century that packaging took on a radically different form: plastic packaging.

Plastics are so versatile. Imagine aeronotics, construction, medicine or electronics without plastics. It would not be the same. We have a love affair with plastics but we have become blinded by love. Plastics take tens to hundreds of years to decompose and are most often made out of petroleum, a non-renewable resource. The process of making plastics can also result in releasing tons of chemicals into the environment adversely affecting nature and our health.

The Good, The Bad and The Ugly

Not all plastics are created equal. High-Density Polyethylene (HDPE), Low Density Polyethylene (LDPE), and Polypropylene (PP) are considered to be safer plastics. You can identify them by their recycling codes: 2, 4, and 5. These are the plastics used for milk jugs, cereal box liners, squeezable bottles, and margarine containers.

Polythylene Terephthalate (PETE), Plyvinyl Chloride (V), Polystyrene (PS) and Others are ugly plastics and we come into contact with them frequently. You can identify them by their recycling codes: 1, 3, 6 and 7. Soda and water bottles, detergent bottles, take out container, plastic wrap, toys (yes toys!), meat trays, foam, the list goes on.

These plastics leach chemicals like phthlates, lead, dioxin, BPA, mercury, cadmium or other toxins into the food or product. As a result the food we ingest or the shampoo we slather all over our head could be laced in chemicals known to cause cancer, disrupt hormones and damage the brain and nervous system.

Toxic Nation has a very handy Guide to Plastics: Helping you Avoid Toxic Chemicals print out to help guide you through the. Alternatively, here is an adapted rhyme from Slow Death By A Rubber Duck:

“Four, five and two; all the rest are bad for you”

How to Avoid Plastic Packaging Waste

Once again I’m going to promote the first of the three Rs: Reduce. The best way to avoid plastic packaging waste is to reduce the amount of plastic packaging that comes into your home. It sounds so simple, but is it? Here are a few ways to start reducing plastic waste.

Don’t buy bottled water.
Make your home a bottle water free zone  by using reusable bottles like Klean Kanteens instead.

In 2006, Canadians consumed 2.1 billion litres of bottled water, Americans 31 billion litres. The Pacific Institute in California estimates that the equivalent of more than 17 million barrels of oil were needed to produce these plastic bottles. Their manufacture created more than 2.5 million tons of CO2 and twice the amount of water in the bottle is required in the production process. More energy is needed to fill the bottles with water, move it by truck, train, ship or air to grocery stores and then recover for recycling. (CBC)

Unwrap That Plastic

Choose foods and other products that aren’t packaged in plastics. Yes, for some items this cam be difficult but not impossible.

  • Buy unpackaged fresh produce and food from the bulk bins and put it in a cloth bag.
  • Go for glass or paper packaging instead of plastic. Try buying milk, juice and mustard in jars instead of a plastic bottles. 
  • Purchase detergent in a box.
  • Buy eggs in cardboard cartons.
  • Order meat from a butcher and ask to have the meat wrapped in butcher’s paper. 
  • Ask the deli if they can put your cheese and lunch meat in a reusable container instead of wrapping it in plastic. While big supermarkets might not do this, smaller privately owned delis usually don’t mind.
  • Consume less products that are packaged in plastics especially highly processed foods.

Pay for the product, Not the packaging! (True Green)

What about Recycling?

Many, if not most, plastics are recyclable but not everyone has access to the appropriate recycling facilities. In our city the only recyclable plastic packaging is milk jugs. You can find ways around this by paying a private recycling company to pick up your stuff. But even with good recycling systems in place the majority of plastics end up in the landfill.

For instance, an average of 36% of plastic bottles (beverage and non-beverage) are recovered in Canada (EPIC, 2004). That means about 150 000 tonnes of recyclable plastic bottles (just bottles!) are ending up in the landfill each year.

Yes, we should recycle. There is no doubt in my mind that recycling is an important step to reducing household waste. But, recycling should not be touted at the magic carrot to our waste problems. Just because something is recycled that doesn’t mean it actually gets recycled. It could just end up in the landfill. Surprised? I was.

Reusing Plastics 

Be careful about reusing plastics. Many plastic packagings are not intended to be reused for storing food. But you can reuse plastics for crafts or non-food storage. Of course plastic containers that are intended for reuse are usually safe but be careful about microwaving your food in them. The problem with reusing plastic containers is the don’t last for a long time. So instead of going back to buy more plastic containers start looking for longer lasting alternatives: metal, glass and cloth. You’ll save money in the long run.

This bring me to a very exciting giveaway! Today’s giveaway is sponsored by The Tickle Trunk.

The Tickle Trunk is an online Canadian company that offers families an affordable alternative to plastics food storage containers. After seeing the need for safe, environmentally responsible and affordable non-plastic food containers, cups, plates The Tickle Trunk was brought to life. The products sold at the Tickle Trunk are made of high quality food grade stainless steal. There are a lot of options to choose from and there are even neat things like stainless steal straws and Popsicle molds (which is how I came across this great company).

Tickle Trunk is offering one 1.1L stainless steal food storage container. This beautiful (yes it’s beautiful!) container is made out of #316 (18/10) food grade Stainless Steel, (the best of the best!) and the lid has a silicone seal.

Enter the Giveaway:

1) Leave a comment below about how your household plans to reduce plastic packaging waste this week. Please leave an email address if you do not have a link on your name so I can contact you if you win.

2) Visit The Tickle Trunk and then come back here and comment by telling me which item(s) interests you the most.

3) Facebook, blog or tweet about this giveaway and link back to this blog. Leave a separate comment for each thing you’ve done telling me you’ve done so.

So there are multiple ways of entering this giveaway with a potential of five entries per person!

The giveaway ends Sunday, April 24, 2011 at midnight.
The winner will be announced on April 25, 2011.

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cindyswobblog April 21, 2011 - 2:38 pm

I like the ice cube trays!

cindyswobblog April 21, 2011 - 4:46 pm

And I facebooked about you 🙂

Chantell April 21, 2011 - 8:09 pm

We are trying not to use Saran wrap this week, and I am planning on buying some cloth snack and sandwich bags soon.

Chantell April 21, 2011 - 8:11 pm

I like the 3 pack of storage containers best.

Rob April 22, 2011 - 12:11 am

This week I'm trying to buy less that is packaged in plastic. Also, we recycle plastics through Big Bark Recycling

Rob April 22, 2011 - 12:18 am

I like the water bottles

ikkinlala April 22, 2011 - 2:13 pm

This week I'm trying to reduce plastic packaging by bringing my own packaging when I shop. That may not help a lot with the prepackaged stuff in the grocery store… but our farmers market opens this weekend, so I'm looking forward to that and I shouldn't need to come home with much (if any) garbage.

ikkinlala AT yahoo DOT ca

ikkinlala April 22, 2011 - 2:15 pm

I'm interested in the popsicle mold – I've seen other sources for steel bottles and storage containers, but I don't think I've seen a popsicle mold anywhere else.

ikkinlala AT yahoo DOT ca

Kyler and Sylvia April 22, 2011 - 3:06 pm

I think I'll get back to carrying my own cloth bags to the grocery store. We actually preferentially buy milk in the plastic jugs because those we can recycle easily (and we recycle for free at our transfer station but pay by the bag for gbg[double yay for cloth diapers]).

Kyler and Sylvia April 22, 2011 - 3:12 pm

I like the water bottles, and the straws are neat.

tanya April 22, 2011 - 7:27 pm

We strive to reduce all plastics in our home-but it can be a hard thing to do! I use fabric snack bags and lined sandwhich wappers, re-useable drink containers and other reusable containers. With one child in school full time and a hubby who takes a lunch 5x week, our goal was to have both lunches be litterless. For the most part, we have been very sucessful. I find the hardest area to reduce plastic is at the grocery store-so much fruit seems to come in packaging. I no longer automatically place my potatoes etc into the plastic bags provided, I would never buy bagged bananas (really, why?!), but I have yet to find a source of berries that does not involve plastic packaging (except for at a u-pick farm, and that is seasonally limited).
I would love anything on the website! 😉

Anonymous April 23, 2011 - 7:51 am

I like the small square glass container! (which, btw, makes things easier if you need to reheat in the microwave…just take off the lid first). I have tried to send leftovers in a glass storage container with my husband so he had a good, healthy lunch. I felt better knowing that he was reheating it in a glass container…only problem I had was trying to help him remember to bring it home again (in a timely fashion!)
~christine (you know who :>)

Anonymous April 23, 2011 - 8:02 pm

Loved the Tickle Truck web site and looking into cleaning out my pantry soon and will invest in stainless steel canisters. Helen

Elisa April 25, 2011 - 10:56 pm

Great info about the #s on plastics! Too bad they only recycle 1 & 2 here. How would you reuse large yogurt containers?

PET preforms manufacturers in india August 4, 2011 - 10:16 am

It was a awe-inspiring post and it has a significant meaning and thanks for sharing the information.Would love to read your next post too……



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Adarshapackaging July 18, 2012 - 9:02 am

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