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Fixing The Plastic Crisis

Posted on 26th July 2018

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This report on the BBC should not be so surprising. The article warns that, even if you put your plastic waste into the appropriate recycling bin, it may not actually be recycled, but rather become landfill.

Oranges In Plastic

The problem is that there is now a roaring trade in waste, with much of our garbage being sent to other countries for processing. The simple act of exporting waste takes it out of sight of the authorities, and we don't know for sure what happens to it. You might have been thinking that, although you can't control what other countries do about recycling, at least you and your country are doing the right thing; it turns out that you may also be part of the problem.

The thing is, recycling is only part of the solution, and really only a stopgap. What we really need to do is reduce the amount of plastic packaging, and indeed packaging in general.

I am constantly amazed by the amount of packaging used in parcels, e.g. when ordering goods online. I recently bought a computer monitor. It came in a box. The company from whom I bought it had put that box in another box (totally unnecessary). There was the usual huge quantity of shock-absorbing plastic padding in both boxes, even though paper alternatives are available which are adequate for the task.

Supermarkets are just as bad. So much is packaged in plastic. Most fresh fruit and vegetables are actually better in paper or cardboard, and some need no packaging at all. Glass jars with metal lids are suitable for yoghurt, cream, etc, and metal cans are suitable for coffee and loads of other stuff; jars and cans are fully recyclable. We need to push back on the supermarkets about using responsible packaging. Jars and cans may be more expensive to use, but only because the true cost of plastics (i.e. including the pollution/clean-up costs) is not being paid.

Today I saw a photo of oranges, shown to the right, which were peeled (peel is the oranges' natural packaging) and then placed in transparent plastic tubs. This is just so wrong!

Some of the worst offenders are cosmetics and personal hygiene manufacturers. I have seen spray bottles with double containers (a jar within a jar, with a huge air gap in between). I have seen all sorts of bizarre shapes of container, which maximise the space taken up, the material used for the packaging, and minimise the volume of contents.

If you care about the environment, it is time to vote with your wallet: tell the companies you buy from that, if they want to keep your business, they need to package more responsibly.