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The dirty business of waste packaging

We’ve all seen trees and barbed wire fences littered with snagged plastic bags, blocks of polystyrene and wax-coated drinks cartons loitering in rivers and the bottoms of hedge rows and road sides. So who’s to blame, businesses or we the consumer?

We’ve all seen trees and barbed wire fences littered with snagged plastic bags, blocks of polystyrene and wax-coated drink cartons loitering in rivers and the bottoms of hedge rows and road sides. So who’s to blame, businesses or we the consumer?

Some might find it surprising that I lay the blame squarely at the door of businesses. Some might not. Either way, there the blame goes.

The blame game — why businesses need to do more

As consumers, we’re the ones who bear the brunt of the pressure to recycle, yet a lot of the waste we have to recycle is totally unnecessary:

“As consumers, we .. well, consume stuff. We buy stuff that comes in packaging that we can’t ordinarily refuse to accept, and in most cases would be foolish to do so. Yet once we unwrap all of the stuff we’ve bought, we’ve got a huge heap of stuff to get rid of.”

This is where businesses need to think clearly about how they package their products for us to buy, as well as what materials they use.

There are alternatives to the ones being used for packaging, such as edible coatings for foods, or stronger paper-based bags to replace plastic shopping bags.

Over here in Britain, our local authorities are becoming more and more strict about what materials are recycled; when and how they need to be handled.

A lot of the time, the waste materials that the average household has to deal with is unreasonable; shrink-wrapped fruits and needlessly bulky double packaging of other food items are just two examples of the crap we walk out of our local supermarkets with.

Ultimately, we must all work together, but the balance must be fair.

When I say our world, I’m thinking beyond borders, politics, race and even our own species. I include every living thing in this equation.

I look around and I see a growing sense of awareness, not just here in England, but all over the world. It’s heartening to see that we’re all taking ownership for the problems we all face. Now it’s the turn of businesses to stand up and be accountable for their wasteful ways.

Some say the clock is at two minutes to midnight. That might well be the case. So we must decide what happens tomorrow…

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By Wayne Smallman

Wayne is the man behind the Blah, Blah! Technology website, and the creator of the Under Cloud, a digital research assistant for journalists and academics.

4 replies on “The dirty business of waste packaging”

We remove all packaging from the products that we can and leave it on the shelves, keeping only the barcodes. It’s up to them to decide whether we are attempting to steal food, or just make a non-violent protest about the wasted resources that they expect us to pay to transport and then throw away. Here in rural UK, it is 4 miles to the nearest plastics recycling and it makes no sense for them to transport it to the supermarket, us to take it 5 miles home, then take it a further 4 miles to recycle. So, we leave it with them and save the plastics etc covering a further 13 miles!

And we have become avid members of Freecycle and are amazed at how much we are able to prevent going into landfill now. One man’s rubbish is another man’s treasure….and all that.

Anyone manufacturing products should think very carefully about what packaging they actually need around their product to protect it in transit, rather than to make it look good in the consumer’s…. bin.

And then I wrote this blog post, amongst many others, about saving carbon, the planet, and the absolute frustration with our administration to practice what they preach.

Lindsey, that is exactly the kind of point I was hoping someone would make. Brillian stuff, and thank you!

We all appreciate the efforts required to make a product appeal to the average consumer, but these are strange times and they require a different kind of thinking.

We need reduced packaging and we all want it now!

I think we both share the blame and both the consumer and businesses can do better things in order to stop such scenes from every appearing again on this planet. Lets just hope every does there part!

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