If you’ve purchased bottled water in the last couple of years, you’ve probably noticed a difference. It might have been a bit thinner with a smaller cap, or with a different label. Is it just a matter of corner-cutting from companies, or is it something else?
More than 30% of landfill waste, or 75 million tons per year, is packing materials, according to the EPA. (1) Two-third of that still is food packaging. (2) When looking at world-wide statistics, more than 200 million tons of packaging waste is generated by consumer goods. (3)
Fortunately, these worrying statistics are helping promote a national push to reduce packaging waste. Companies are well aware of it and that’s the reason behind the thinner water bottles and smaller caps. But here’s how you too can make a change.
The Downsides of Packaging
Besides producing tons of landfill waste, merely producing the packaging also impacts the environment in a few ways significant ways: (4)
- It consumes a lot of energy and contributes to greenhouse gasses.
- If littered, it pollutes soil, water, and air, and harms animals.
- It uses up lots of natural resources.
These very reasons are why consumers are beginning to demand eco-friendly packaging options. (5) And companies have started to respond (6) by incorporating recyclable, reused, or renewable packaging materials, while eliminating filler materials and reducing the amount of packaging as a whole. Certain companies take things even further (7) by using renewable sources of energy for packaging production and getting materials from suppliers that are environmentally conscious. According to some estimates, we should be able to eliminate as much as 4 billion pounds of waste implementing such changes. (8)
The Benefits of Reducing Packaging
Reducing how much packaging we produce and use is a great benefit to our planet because it leads to:
- Less waste deposited in landfills.
- Less air, water, and soil pollution.
- Less carbon emitted during manufacturing.
- Less carbon emitted for transport.
- Fewer natural resources get used.
Moreover, the savings of producing less packaging also get passed on to the consumers.
How to Produce Less Packaging Waste Personally
Companies producing packaging can make the biggest positive impact, but there are things people can do to improve the situation with a few changes to their daily lives.
Paper, plastic, aluminum, and glass can be recycled and reused in various ways, so it’s important that you join and motivate your friends and family, too.
Choose Biodegradable, Recycled, or Recyclable Packaging
When shopping, buy products with packaging that benefits the environment. For example, instead of buying a plastic bottle of peanut butter, buy a glass one and then reuse it.
Opt for Reusable Products
If you buy a certain product less often, you will also be buying and throwing away less packaging waste. While not always possible, you should stay clear of disposable options (9) and instead choose products or packaging that lasts longer.
Buy Less in General
Reducing consumption is not always easy, especially for people in the west, but it is perhaps the easiest way to combat packaging waste. Think about whether you really need something the next time you buy it.
Shop in Bulk
We’ve all seen bulk containers in a variety of stores, so whenever you can buy things like concentrates that you can dilute later on at home to fill smaller bottles.
Buy Products With Minimal Packaging When Bulk Options Aren’t Available
This may not always be an option for you, but if a city the size of Minneapolis bought 10 common household products with the most minimal packaging, it could reduce waste by 150,000 tons each year, according to a Minnesota study. (10)
Bring Your Own Containers and Bags to the Store
Instead of buying packaged goods or getting plastic bags at the checkout, bring your own cloth bags and plastic containers to buy bulk goods.
Stop Using Plastic Water Bottler
While you sometimes need to get water, you can avoid plastic packaging waste by bringing a reusable bottle along with you to work, for example.
Borrow and Rent Products or Buy Used
Ask friends or family or visiting a consignment is a good way of buying used products and devices, while also producing less waste.
Repair and Maintain What You Already Have
Before throwing out an old and broken product and buying a new one, think about whether you can repair it, but also try to better maintain the things you own.
Advocate for Packaging Reduction
Those willing to put in extra effort can also advocate for ecological causes like recyclable and sustainable materials and minimal product packaging.