What’s the problem?
Everyone says “you need to reduce your packaging waste”. Why though? According to waste statistics, 200kg of packaging waste is generated per person per year. According to another statistic, there is a 9% increase in plastic waste every year. Just with plastic bottles, less than 50% of single-use bottles produced is recycled and the other half ends up in landfill.
In general, less than half of our packaging waste is recycled. Forty per cent of plastic packaging waste is disposed of at sanitary landfills, 14% goes to incineration facilities and 14% is collected for recycling. Incineration creates the most CO2 emissions among the plastic waste management methods.
Throwaway plastic packaging makes up 40% of the demand for plastic, fuelling a boom in production from 2m tonnes in the 1950s to 380m tonnes in 2015. By the end of 2015, 8.3bn metric tonnes of plastic had been produced – two-thirds of which has been released into the environment and remains there.The Guardian
Another scary aspect of this is that there is more plastic in our oceans than sea life. Plastic outnumbers sea life by 6 to 1. Have you seen this sad seahorse photo before? See it here on the National Geographic website.
What are the choices available?
There are 2 ways to reduce your packaging waste:
- Buy wholesale and store
- Use a refill shop
Now both these options have their own limitations and problems.
If you buy wholesale, you need a fair amount of space to store and you need a bigger chunk of upfront money to buy. There will be some waste that comes but in the long run, you will definitely save on the amount of waste generated.
When it comes to refill shops, they are fantastic in a lot of ways, but it might mean a separate trip to the shops (unless they deliver like milk & more or Able & Cole) and it might cost a bit more than regular supermarket. But in the long run, you will realise you get better quality ingredients and you would have reduced your carbon foot print.
What do we do as a family to reduce our packaging waste?
As a family, we use a bit of both. We are lucky to have storage space – so buy certain things in bulk, especially things we definitely know doesn’t come in plastic bags and/or things we use a lot of.
We as a family use a lot of oats. So rather than buy Oats almost every week, we buy a 20kg bag of Oats instead and store it. Oats comes in a large paper sack and no plastic packaging and works out cheaper. So win-win.
When it comes to dishwashing liquid, hand soaps, shampoo etc – we go to the refill shop. We take our old bottles and get it refilled as and when we need it. We get cruelty free, fragrance free, made without harsh chemical products without any packaging to boot. Packaging waste = zero and we get a better product.
We could buy this wholesale too, but unfortunately, they come in large plastic bottles.
What do you need to do reduce your packaging waste?
Assess what you buy already and see what can be refilled. A lot of things can be refilled – but your local shop will tell you what they stock and what they don’t. So, do that look up your nearest refill shop. I have put some links below that would help you find your local refill shop.
This is an interactive directory of zero waste shops in the UK. Eco & Beyond