Talking Trash: Plastic Packaging Nightmares

| 11/5/2009 9:04:35 AM

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Nothing infuriates me more than packaging. Who has invented the nearly impenetrable hard plastic shell that encases countless products from tubes of lipstick to utensils, tools, beads, knobs, and scores of other products that used to require no packaging at all? Send this idiot to the guillotine. Even my multi-pack of scissors from Costco came thusly packaged. Brilliant! I bought the scissors because my old ones were not sharp enough to cut paper. So, how then to get through this plastic coating that would likely stop a bullet and once pierced has razor sharp edges that effortlessly cut through flesh?

I feel I need to blame someone for this. Who is at fault? Could the plastic packaging “geniuses” really come up with nothing better at all? Because I can’t imagine anything worse than my new kitchen “recycling station” (necessary only because I cannot go to the wine cellars with my bottles to get them refilled or buy my hardware for the latest DIY project out of bins at the store up the street, because there isn’t one, or make all my own beauty and hygiene products because I use so damn many of them) being packaged in plastic – nowadays even fruit comes packaged in plastic. Now, my DIY kitchen project, laboriously crafted to reduce our carbon footprint and reuse and recycle wherever feasible, has produced three enormous contractor-sized Hefty bags full of packaging and demolition waste.

We opted not to pay for trash service. This was not a financial decision, because the charge is only around $30 a month. It is in fact, a test. What is it like to have to deal with your own waste? While we were camping here we got used to separating, burning and composting, and hauling anything else out to the dump ourselves. We produce a fraction of the waste of the average household and even that is an exasperatingly heavy load of it.

It has gotten to be more, rather than less, difficult over the last decades to produce less waste. The culprit: packaging. To reduce packaging we can make some small choices that are effective: make iced tea at home instead of drink soda; mix juices from the frozen concentrate containers which are smaller and more disposable; cook and never eat take out or any convenience foods; use only bar soap on your hair and body; don’t use paper but don’t buy new electronics either. And even if you made every single one of these changes, your trash load would be only somewhat reduced. Because to end the packaging waste nightmare you would have to stop shopping altogether. And since we all know that is never going to happen, I suggest we all start pointing fingers.

Tune in next time when trash talk turns to the ingrained evils of the plastic bag.

11/6/2009 12:55:46 PM

Mishelle, Welcome, I also have been dealing with this -just trying not to bring any plastic grocery bags in to the house as been a struggle. Everything wrapped in plastic like you said also has been a struggle to not bring home. The plastic that does come in the house I reuse to throw away thing away like grandson's baby diapers and so forth. Some of that plastic includes bread wrappers and so forth. I'm working on our carbon footprint a little at a time and I think it's great that you've come this far. Good post vickie

cindy murphy
11/6/2009 7:42:50 AM

I couldn't agree more, Mishelle, about the frustrations of trying to produce less waste when dealing with more packaging. And don't, for heaven's sake, mail order anything - it comes in a box inside a box, wrapped in bubble-wrap, and further protected from the dangers of mailhandlers with the boxes packed to the brim with those plastic air pillows. I commend your commitment to reducing your carbon footprint by eliminating trash service. It reminds me of the guy who kept his garbage in his garage for one year to see how much trash one person actually produced. Shortly into his experiment because his garage was filling up quicker than expected, he was composting everything he could, recycling, reusing, and doing everything people read about to reduce their waste, but never actually do. Just a brief mention about burning, if I may? Burning yard waste, or trash yourself is worse than sending it to the trash incinerators. As bad as they sound, incinerators burn at a higher degree, and use filters to reduce emissions. EPA study showed that two to forty households burning garbage produce as much dioxin as a 200 ton per day municipal incinerator. Scary stuff those dioxins. Keep up the good work. Looking forward to reading more. Cindy Murphy; A Lakeside View

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