Monday, June 8, 2009

An open letter... manufacturing companies, food distributors, um, just about any company out there.

Why the over-packaging?  Why the overuse of non-recyclable plastic?  

Our household made the transition to using cloth shopping bags 100% of the time after my trip to Ireland last year.  They had gone to charging for plastic bags at all major grocery stores several years back, and so everyone used reuseable bags for their shopping.  It had just become the norm.  It was fantastic to see, and made me realize that it's just a mindset, and not really all that inconvenient if you had no choice.  And then Canadian grocery stores got smart, and now it's turning into the norm here too.

But if we can move to this "extreme" level, why can't we set guidelines on food packaging?  Here's a perfect example - mushrooms.  You can buy loose into a brown paper bag (sometimes, depends on the store).  Or you can buy pre-packaged in a plastic container with plastic wrap (far more widely available than the loose, package-yourself option).  

I get the convenience factor.  I'm not saying pre-packaged produce is wrong.  But why can't they just use the cardboardy containers instead of non-recyclable plastic?  Still wrapped in plastic wrap, but just a different base.  One that is actually easily recyclable.

Same goes for berries - the biggest offender.  I can't buy fruit (and we eat A LOT of fruit - especially berries - in our house) without feeling guilty everytime.  Because as I buy them, I know the containers are going into my garbage bin, not the blue box.  

As I wrote this, the thought occured to me that perhaps it's not the issue with the plastic, but with the actual recycle program here in Whitby.  So I called them to see what the actual "rules" were - what numbers were allowed/disallowed.

The answer?  "We don't sort based on the number, it's based on demand of what will be purchased.  So we accept based on what it is.  For example, if it's a plastic shampoo bottle and has a twist off cap, that would be accepted.  It doesn't matter what number it is."

My response?  "So you're saying the people buying the plastic don't care if it's a 1 or a 2 or a 7, just that it was a bottle with a twist off cap?  Because that doesn't make any sense"

Her response?  "I can only tell you how it works m'am."

Just for sport, I thought I'd take a look at the City of Toronto's recycle program (because as I've complained about before - they also accept diapers in their compost bins, which Whitby doesn't - so perhaps they're just more advanced?)... well, turns out they don't accept the "clamshell" plastic containers either.

Soooooo... after that diversion, I'm back to my original question. Why use that type of plastic, that seems to be widely unaccepted?

With green + frugal being so "in" these days, I'd say you could capture a lot of market share as a company just by changing your packaging model.

Just some food for thought... (oooooh - punny!)


1 comment:

Deb said...

I couldn't agree with you more. We buy a lot of fruit in our house too, especially berries and grape tomatoes, and I always feel guilty about tossing those clamshells in the garbage. But if you want to buy them, there's no other choice. Which isn't entirely true, because in the summer at least, if you go down to the market, berries are in cardboard containers.
But in terms of packaging, don't even get me started on my rant of overpackaging for toys!