With the world changing we have been forced to reevaluate our way of life. One of the biggest things that has been brought to the forefront is the impact our daily habits have on the health of our planet. Seeing such a sharp change once everyone was in lockdown has made it even more clear. If the earth and nature is given a chance it will fight back.
Over the next month we are going to have a look at how covid has put living a sustainable life in focus. We work everyday to live a sustainable life, but with different information being presented all of the time it is hard to sometimes keep a clear path. Starting on this topic we are looking at one of the most common things we deal with everyday, packaging, and we are addressing 6 common misconceptions about “green packaging”.
Plastic is the bad guy of packaging
Ban single use plastics has been a common anthem of anyone aiming to live a more sustainable life. The big one of these is plastic bags. Interesting fact, they were originally invented as a reusable carrying source, not intended to be used once and thrown away. But did you know that single use plastics can be more sustainable depending on the material it is made from? Also, how it is used and where it ends up. It actually has a smaller carbon footprint than say a canvas bag . That would have to be used up to 300 times to have a comparable impact. Also, by packing something once, properly in plastic rather than using less effective means of packaging could result in the item being damaged to being sent back. This results in the supply chain extending and so the carbon emissions increasing.
Glass is a always more sustainable than plastic
This is not always true. Glass containers are heavier to transport and are not always recycled back into glass products even after they are collected. They may end up being used in roads amongst other things. For example, I have seen food products presented in glass packaging which can then be recycled so is touted as a more sustainable option. BUT only if the consumer decides to recycle it.
Biodegradable means compostable
As we have discovered over the years, there are different meanings to the word “degradable”. If you see something labeled as “bio-degradable’ Yes it will degrade but many times not without some serious industrial processes. Otherwise they could be in the environment for many years. A label called oxo-degradable is common to see on some plastics. It means that the use of chemicals is required to break them down. This in turn creates microplastics which as we all know are a huge problem in the marine and terrestrial environment and can end up in our food chain. So, next time you are looking at “degradable” bag for example, check what kind of degradable it is.
All plastic is made of the same thing
There is no one type of plastic and yes, all of it is a pollutant. The challenge is to reduce your use of plastic and change the types that we are using. There is a large focus right now on creating plant-based materials for the plastic so producing a more sustainable option. Longer term options are being looked at which include larger scale utilization of these methods. “An example is Tetra-Rex. This is a plant-based carton made from paperboard and plastic derived from sugar cane” said Erik Lindroth from Tetra Pak. If you research some of the companies that are using this type of plastic packaging, you can focus your buying on these options.
Food without packaging is always better
Before this delightful pandemic came our way, there was a very large push around the world to start introducing food stuffs with no packaging. However, this can also have its draw backs. By wrapping in plastic, the shelf life of a food product can be extended so reducing the food waste. Food spoilage and waste can have an even bigger footprint than the single use film. I am not saying that single use film is great, no. It is a pollutant, but it is extremely important as well to take into account the food wastage that may otherwise occur. Food packaging is just a small part of the whole footprint of the product.
All aluminum is bad
After plastic, aluminum is very much frowned upon. Almost 75% of all aluminum is still in circulation which goes along with the thought process that it is infinitely recyclable. The problem has always been though, that it is very energy intensive to recycle to creating a large carbon footprint. However, there is a focus now on low energy aluminum which is produced using clean energy processes. So making the carbon footprint less. This is a great example of a sustainable future and a super weapon in the fight against climate change according to a UK former climate and energy minister.
I know it is hard to take from this one clear message. Yes, plastic is bad, but it it not always the worse option and can be recycled, in the right way and we need to try and prevent it from reaching the oceans. The best we can do in general is juts to overall consume less and be more mindful or what we are buying and how. Everything we can do will have an affect on our planet and oceans. That is what we are trying to save.