Strive for a cleaner planet
It seems that these days the war on packaging is being talked about an awful lot. But to what extent is it being fought, and if it is, can it even be won in time? How much time do we realistically have? Most people would argue that we are in fact now out of time.
Let’s cut straight to a really easy point to look at. If you purchase a 60inch TV over the internet, you don’t want it to turn up at your doorstep with a huge crack down the screen. To achieve this, a fair degree of packaging is needed. It’s just a fact.
On the other end of the scale, do we really need half a dozen avocados set into plastic blister packaging? (much of which is often not even recyclable).
Marry up some basic numbers on this as well. According to plasticoceans.org, about 8 million tonnes of plastic are dumped into the sea each year. Ouch… can we turn the tide on that sort of number?
It is widely believed that the vast majority of plastic produced is not recycled. In fact most of it goes to landfill. The exact number for plastic production is of course almost impossible to accurately state, but it is thought to be circa 300 million tonnes per annum – and about half of that is single use plastic.
This brings us to a critical point… is the war on packaging the same as the war on plastic? Are we clear in our own minds about that? Are industries and governments clear on this? Who has the ultimate responsibility to ensure that landfill is kept to an absolute minimum and that our oceans don’t have to suffer the indignity of choking on our plastics?
If we say it is only down to government policy, we will no doubt be having this same conversation in 20 years from now with
little progress being made. (After all, most governments change with time – and therefore so does the policy and dialogue that goes with it).
So in order to turn the tide on packaging, we must have cheap and readily available alternatives. If cost can drive the solution, then that’s even better. But here’s the problem. Most of the alternatives are not cheap… and if they are, they are not always available when you need them and let’s be honest, some of them are not so good at doing what the more destructive packaging does.
There are a few things we can pick out to look at whether or not we can collectively turn the tide on how we package ‘things’. One action that is certainly needed is ‘cooperation’. Governments need to cooperate with one another and global bodies need to act fast (as do large corporates who produce much of the packaging). However, ultimately it is the individual who consumes, and therefore needs to demand how packaging is dealt with either by recycling, or best practice for ‘end of life’ procedures. As with any sector of industry, if we vote with our wallets, producers soon get the message.
We can use certain materials safely and with minimal impact on the planet. Items such as cardboard, paper, corn starch, aluminium are all very recyclable or even compostable in some cases. The key is whether or not we are all willing to move towards more environmental alternatives. If we do (and we are in the minority) what is the point if 80% of the global population (this is a global thing) are caught in a price v benefit scenario and don’t gravitate towards a more sustainable solution. (Let’s be honest, we have all been in that situation before in one way or another).
This brings us back to the one topic that drives other solutions as well – Education. Education also helps prevent massive population growth (which of course goes hand in hand with massive consumption). So without the right educational practices and messaging in place right across the globe, it is going to be hard to turn the tide on waste and unsustainable packaging.
In the meantime, we do what we can. We segregate our domestic and office waste streams…. and hope that they don’t end up in landfill!