Convenient Packaging Leads to Environmental Harm

Lush launches yet another package-free line. (Photo: Dana Hirsch)

Sometimes, a trip to the supermarket can be bizarre. What we may find is a banana in a vacuum-sealed plastic bag or a peeled orange in a plastic box. We are tempted to put our apples, onions, and peppers into small plastic bags which are conveniently provided in the produce section. What we often fail to consider is that the consequences of product over-packaging can be severe.

“On average we only recycle one plastic bag in every 200 we use,” says a study conducted by the Environmental Protection Agency. “Each year, an estimated 500 billion to 1 trillion plastic bags are consumed worldwide. That comes out to over one million per minute.”

The average American family uses about 1500 plastic bags every year–only seven to eight of them are recycled. Most plastic bags are made out of plastic that is non-recyclable and takes anywhere from 10 to 1000 years to decompose, according to ABC News.

Bananas and oranges do not need packaging–the peel is nature’s packaging. What can we do to stop this madness? We can choose our produce wisely. For example, we don’t need a plastic bag for products which have a peel like a potato or a protective layer like an onion.

Another way can be to stop using plastic bags provided by stores and bringing a reusable bag. Supermarkets like Trader Joe’s let individuals enter a weekly raffle to win a giftcard if they bring their own reusable bag.

“We encourage our customers to bring their own bag because not only is it better for the environment, but it also keeps product costs down,” said Liz Flannery, a manager at a Trader Joe’s in Northville, Mich. “Every penny the company saves, customers save as well.”

But over-packaging isn’t only found at grocery stores. When it comes to beauty products, the choices we make matter. Glossy magazines and advertisements convince us we need a wide range of products to clean and style ourselves every day.

According to Stowaway, a company that produces beauty products with thoughtful packaging, the average woman uses 40 different products. Out of these 40 items, how many do they choose considering how much plastic is used to package them?

There is a better way and it starts with choosing products more consciously. A larger shampoo bottle will actually save consumers money and reduce the amount of packaging in comparison to the content. In addition, there are stores like Lush which sell beauty products with recyclable, biodegradable, or no packaging at all.

According to Lush.com, the company has launched a project where “almost every packaged product has a naked counterpart.” Many conventionally liquid products are now available as a solid, package-free option.

The company sells its products packaged in 100 percent recycled material, biodegradable plastic wraps, and offers collectible tins for its package-free products.

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