Better packaging

October 18, 2017

Better packaging

The oceans are awash with plastic, the recycling market struggles to keep up, and manufacturers produce more packaging than ever. But we have the power to stem the flow! Here’s some inspiration and ideas for concerned consumers.

Say no to:

  • Cling film. Instead use reusable cloth wraps, beeswax wraps, or the lunchbox itself! 
  • Disposable coffee cups. Instead use a KeepCup or an IdealCup. Or sit down and drink your coffee in the cafe. Slowing down is good for you. 
  • Straws. Instead just sip it. If you insist on blowing bubbles, invest reusable stainless steel straws. 
  • Food packaging. Instead take your own containers (reusable plastic containers, glass jars, cloth bags) to bulk shops or sections in the supermarket.  
  • Disposable water bottles. Use a glass, refillable metal or BPA free plastic bottles. 

Three rules to shop by

  1. Take your own bags and containers every time you go shopping. Seek out products that don’t come in plastic or foil, but are sitting loose (fruit and veges) or in bulk bins (dried goods). Watch out for fruit labels!
  2. Give customer feedback. If business know they are losing money because of inconsiderate packaging, they’lll be more willing to change their ways. If they’re not thinking about the environment, they’ll certainly be thinking about their bottom line.
  3. It’s hard to avoid packaged goods entirely. Make sure your packaging is recyclable, compostable, or reusable. Avoid multi-packs - buying bulk is usually cheaper anyway. Support packaging made with recycled materials - it’s the consumer counterpart to kerbside recycling.

The wise shopper’s glossary to packaging 

Compostable/biodegradable plastics*. This type of plastic is generally only compostable in industrial composts - a very different system from your own backyard compost heap. Industrial composts are only available in Wellington by arrangement with organisations such as Kai to Compost.

Degradable plastics*. These plastics are even worse than standard plastic. An additive causes them to disintegrate when exposed to oxygen.  This results in countless tiny plastic fragments entering waterways and food chains. Furthermore, the additive means they can’t be recycled! Claims of eco-friendly degradable plastics are misleading greenwash, and are something that companies have been prosecuted for.

*New Zealand has no legal definitions for these packaging terms. In effect, they can mean anything - or nothing. Disposing of these plastics incorrectly can be worse than just recycling ordinary plastic.

Polystyrene. Polystyrene particles are notorious for being eaten by aquatic animals, resulting in their death by starvation. Polystyrene isn’t recyclable in Wellington region.

Plastics 1-2. If buying things packaged in plastic, go for plastics numbered 1 or 2. They have a higher value on the international market than plastics 3-7. Recycling companies often have to stockpile 3-7s because they can’t find a buyer. Plastic cannot be recycled indefinitely - it loses quality as it is recycled, and eventually has to be sent to the landfill.

Also see: 

Ask an expert: Hannah and Liam on zero waste living 

Guide: The Rubbish Trip's Wellington region zero waste shopping guide 





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