Learn how to reduce packaging waste

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Gaylord Nelson, founder of Earth Day, once said that “the economy is a wholly owned subsidiary of the environment, not the other way around.” On the shortlist of America’s most unsustainable systems like energy and transportation, pesticides in food, and junk mail is daily throw-away PACKAGING which is a major source of landfill waste and climate changing pollution. Packaging does serve a purpose. It’s identifies and protects food and products and the packaging industry provides jobs. But the wasted packaging that is not recycled or land-filled, is often incinerated into the air or found floating in the sea. Swirling masses of plastic waste, called gyres, now exist, the largest of which is bigger than the United States. There’s an absolute connection between the sheer amount of throw-away packaging… and the vast amounts of unseen pollution… changing our, atmosphere, land & sea. Join us to learn more about reducing or eliminating your packaging waste.

Click here for a Good Dirt Radio 5-minute eco-spot on packaging.

Click here for more information and resources on this topic.

Read the transcript below:

Welcome to Good Dirt Radio, reporting on positive change… taking root.

Gaylord Nelson, founder of Earth Day, once said that “the economy is a wholly owned subsidiary of the environment, not the other way around.”  On the shortlist of America’s most unsustainable systems, including energy and transportation, pesticides in food… and junk mail…is daily throw-away packaging, which is a major source of landfill waste and climate changing pollution.

Packaging does serve a purpose. It identifies and protects food and products and the packaging industry provides jobs.  But the wasted packaging that is not recycled or dumped in a landfill, is often incinerated into the air or found floating in the sea.   Swirling masses of plastic waste, called gyres, now exist, the largest of which is bigger than the US.  There’s an absolute connection between the sheer amount of throw-away packaging—and the vast amounts of unseen pollution—changing our atmosphere, land and sea.

Gary Liss is a ‘zero waste’ consultant and activist based in Loomis, California, where he serves on the town council.  He specializes in planning zero waste systems for communities across America and helps eliminate huge amounts of waste while saving money and impact from consumer pollution.

Liss:  The amount of materials that we waste in this country is really staggering.  With every ton in front of us, there’s 71 tons created upstream from mining, manufacturing and distribution of products.  We have a huge impact on climate change, impact on wildlife, plastic’s accumulating in the ocean, hurting the wildlife, strangling them or they eat the plastics and think they’re full and then they starve to death.  We have the chemicals deteriorating from the plastics and those chemicals are eaten by the seafood and that accumulates in our fatty tissue.  All negative health effects for humans, for wildlife and for the planet.

After grad school, Tracy Fernandez Rysavy was so passionate about eco and social issues, she offered her services for free to Yes! Magazine.  Still inspired, as Editor in Chief of the Green American Magazine and the National Green Pages, she promotes all things sustainable for Green America, a powerful, national advocate for a healthier world.

Rysavy:  Single use packaging that we cut off or unwrap and throw away right away makes up a third of our municipal solid waste.  Two of the worst types are paper and plastic packaging because you can only recycle them a finitrre number of times before they just become an unusable mass of trash.  Paper is not good to waste because we’re losing our world’s forests at the rate of 20 football fields per second.  They clean our air, they trap carbon dioxide so it’s really sad to cut down trees that we need so desperately.  Plastic waste is really no better.  We generate 14 million tons of plastic packaging waste per year.  It doesn’t go away, its engineered to hang around for decades.    There are also a lot of chemical additives in it.  A recent study found that just one of those additives Bisphenol A, which is a hormone disrupter linked to cancer, can leach from every type of numbered plastic.  So  even the ones we thought were safe, 1, 2 and 5, which are used to package our food, if they get heated, they can leach BPA which is not healthy.

Rysavy says buying food ‘in bulk,’ when possible, helps reduce packaging but recommends other important ways shoppers can reduce their consumer waste.

Rysavy:  There are two things that people can do that have a big impact. Number one, bring your own reusable bags to the store.  This blew my mind when I heard it but the world uses more than 500 billion single use plastic bags each year.  Getting rid of your single use plastic bags is a huge step.  And then number two, stop drinking bottled water.  Its unnecessary waste.  There are a lot of studies that show its generally no cleaner than tap water and you can get a filter to clean your tap water.  If you want portable water, you can get a steel bottle.  And then, just pay attention.  Once you get in that mindset to look at packaging, you really start to make better choices. 

Liss:  Buy local, patronize the businesses that are doing the things we want them to do, stores that are trying to do the best, the green businesses, the sustainable businesses in your community.      

Rysavy:  You and I really do have the power to stop this waste by voting with our dollars for products that come in less packaging or that come in recyclable packaging like glass or metal.  So when you start to really look at packaging waste,  you see how much better we could be doing. 

Flashy packaging is often an illusion to induce sales.  But there are options…and smart choices at the store make less waste and pollution for our finite Earth.

For more on reducing your packaging waste, please visit us at gooddirtradio.org.

I’m Tom Bartels and I’m Tami Graham.  Thanks for joining us on Good Dirt Radio, digging up good news…. for a change.

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2 comments for “Learn how to reduce packaging waste

  1. January 10, 2013 at 4:46 am

    Great article. At C K Polymers we believe that recycling is a great way to use waste products!, nice post

  2. January 16, 2013 at 4:59 pm

    At C K Polymers we love recycling and believe its great for the environment. Great points of view presented by all., thank you