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:
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.
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.
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!