Tuesday, 23 January 2007

Packaging, packaging... and more packaging!

An interesting article on the front page of today's Independent - looking at the (in my opinion rather ridiculous!) amount of packaging waste generated by your average visit to the supermarket...

Reading the comments that have been sent in by Independent readers, it seems I'm not on my own!

Does toothpaste really need to be in a plastic tube AND a cardboard box? Are pizzas better for being packed in a polystyrene tray with a plastic wrapper and a cardboard box?

And although Sainsbury's sell some of their organic fruit and vegetables in compostable trays, the majority of this unneccessary packaging cannot be recycled.

The comments from the supermarkets are interesting as well... "We are committed to making sure packaging is not excessive." (Tesco)... "We already have a target to reduce our packaging..." (Sainsbury's)... "We plan to minimise packaging in the first instance and transfer the remaining packaging to biodegradable." (Waitrose). One reader had commented on the USB memory stick she'd bought from Staples - in a cardboard box, shrink-wrapped, in a plastic display case and a further plastic storage box. Staples declined to comment!

The good news is that the Environment Minister (Ben Bradshaw) and the Secretary of State for the Environment (David Miliband), as well as a number of other politicians, have expressed their concern and are backing the Independent's campaign...

So... what can we do about it?

The politicians suggest that we write to our local councils and the Trading Standards Authority and "shop the shops".

I once wrote to Marks and Spencer, returning some packaging to them that I couldn't recycle, and asking them to dispose of it in an environmentally-friendly manner... I never heard from them... I guess the packaging went to a landfill site...

Some people suggest unwrapping everything you buy in the supermarket, and leaving the packaging at the checkout - I've not been brave enough to do this yet!

Perhaps avoid buying products with unneccessary packaging? Then you end up (assuming you keep shopping in supermarkets) in the situation that I did the other day... Broccoli grown in Lincolnshire in a plastic, cling-film wrapped tray? Or broccoli grown in Kenya in a compostable wrapper? (Interestingly, it was the Kenyan broccoli, and not the Lincolnshire-grown, that was organic!)

So... packaging... food miles... organic... and then when you bring Fairtrade into the equation... What a complicated world we live in these days!!

Leave a comment and let us know about excessive packaging you've experienced... And more importantly, any great ideas you've got for dealing with the problem and getting the supermarkets to change their ways!


Lollypop611 said...

Hey miss!!
Thought i would be kind and comment as not many people are!!
I agree that there is too much packaging but for a lot of things it is nessecary!! During dinnerthe other night we had the same conversation! Think of cornflakes the bag protects the cornflakes from going soggy and the box protects them from becoming crushed!!
I think you should organise a campaign where we send the unecessary packaging back to the company in extreme cases such as the USB! Get every one involved and the companies may begin to get the idea!!
Cya 2moz miss
P.s cant wait 2 get the lil test results back!! ive got a feeling you may not be a happy bunny :(

geogtastic! said...

Thanks for the comment Lauren... I'm glad you've finally decided to visit!! (See latest post regarding lack of comments...)

I'd agree that for SOME (not "a lot of") things the packaging's necessary... We had interesting discussions about this in some of our Yr8 lessons before Christmas, when we were looking at the idea of "food miles" - would we need so much packaging if we weren't shipping/flying a lot of our food halfway round the world?!

As for the campaign... Great idea! I'd be more than happy to support you/help out if you wanted to get something going!! (After all, such things create far more interest if they are started by the youth of today!)

And the test results... will depend what happens p1 tomorrow... I marked one on Thursday (46/80 - better than I expected, but not as good as I hoped...) but left them at school and haven't been in today... But I have a similar feeling to you...