We talk a lot in the waste industry about composting and recycling, in a bid to keep materials out of landfill, yet the best way to reduce landfill is avoidance and this should always be our first action. It can be difficult to totally avoid creating waste, but we can reduce things like packaging with just a bit of effort and some smart choices. As a society we too readily accept what goods and produce manufacturers supply to us, that is, products with excessive or unnecessary packaging. Even the current trend in compostable packaging still doesn’t address the issue of whether we need so much of it in the first place. Importantly, if there is no option to recycle compostable packaging, such as a green or compost bin, then it is best avoided too.
If you really want to improve the sustainability of your shopping, consider the way your food and products are packaged. Packaging takes a lot of energy, water and other natural resources to produce, and packaging waste pollutes our air, water and soil. In Australia it makes up almost 30% ( 82 million tons) of all the waste we produce.
Here are some easy ways to reduce packaging in our every-day decisions:
• Choose unpackaged food whenever you can. If its unnecessarily wrapped in plastic, like fruit and veg, leave it on the shelf and send supermarkets a message. Some stores will let you to bulk purchase food and home products using your own containers.
• BYO containers and keep cups when buying takeaway, or ask for just the sandwich wrapping, not the extra paper bag as well. Better still, eat or drink in whenever you can. Takeaway food tends to include a lot of packaging and unnecessary waste.
• Compare products and choose unpackaged items, items with less packaging, and concentrates whenever possible. Support companies that have active policies to reduce their packaging.
• Buy products in recyclable packaging and made from recycled materials. This supports the recycling industry by creating demand for the materials we place in our recycling bins. Examples include recycled toilet paper, paper towels and writing paper.
• Unavoidable packaging should be separated into glass, plastic, paper and metal and placed in your kerbside recycling bin. Soft plastics that can’t be avoided can be recycled at many supermarkets through the REDcycle program.