Sunday, February 2, 2014

Wrap rage - how to reduce packaging for a more eco-friendly home

How to reduce packaging for a more eco-friendly home
Choosing products with less packaging is a way to support companies that are more eco-minded.

Have you ever experienced “wrap rage”, that feeling of extreme frustration when trying to open a new purchase that is secured in the Fort Knox of packaging? It isn’t limited to those of us challenged to open the packages on children’s toys, all manner of products, edible and otherwise are heavily packaged – over packaged some might say – and it takes a good pair of kitchen scissors and a dose of patience to open them.

Packaging does have a purpose. Manufacturers use it to better display the items that they’re selling, there is the security aspect of packaging because it keeps item(s) contained and packaging can protect items for shipping. However all of these packaging requirements can be met using less packaging and using more sustainable materials.

Many manufacturers have incorporated recyclable materials into their packaging so we all know it’s possible.

By choosing cardboard instead of plastic, or using plastics commonly accepted in recycling facilities (those marked with the numbers 1, 2 and 5) manufacturers have the power to divert a chunk of the five billion pounds of plastics that end up in Canadian landfills each year.

Manufacturers may have the power, but it’s consumers who need to give them a push. Few companies consider it their corporate responsibility to reduce and improve their packaging but those that do deserve our support.

I’m impressed by SeventhGeneration laundry detergent that’s available in a recyclable bag encased in a compostable carton. The package uses 66% less plastic than a typical laundry bottle and washes the same number of loads. That’s only one of the many examples of forward-thinking companies that are making product changes for the good of the environment and their customers. If you look around you’ll see there is bag-only cereal and there are electronics sold in cardboard boxes made from 100% recycled cardboard and old newspaper.

Back to the “wrap rage”, according to a CBC Marketplace poll, 90% of Canadians who participated in the survey said that they have experienced rage when trying to open a package and 69 percent said that they have injured themselves in the process of trying to open heavy packaging.

Even if the customers’ issues aren’t environmental, this frustration with packaging has the potential to influence companies to be smarter about packaging. And as more companies make the move to reduce and improve packaging, more people will take notice.

It appears Canadians may be more aware than we think. That same Marketplace packaging survey found that 78 percent of respondents believe that manufacturers should be required to pay a tax when they choose to use non-recyclable packaging.

Since there is little chance that there will be such an incentive anytime soon, as consumers we can exert our own influence by being picky about what we buy, avoiding products with excessive packaging and by letting companies know when we’re unhappy with their approach to packaging.  And of course, we need to ensure the recyclables in our household and workplace make it into the recycling bin.