We know that packaging heavily influences consumers buying decisions. It is the first thing we see. Unfortunately, environmental sustainability isn’t always a priority when it comes to product packaging for many businesses. In fact, some of the most common packaging isn’t even recyclable. Some of the biggest traps include some very common items.
TAKEAWAY COFFEE CUPS
In Melbourne we just love our coffee and a morning caffeine fix is an essential part of many people’s lives. The typical caffeine lover tries to do the right thing and recycle their coffee cup, but contrary to popular belief takeaway cups typically can’t be recycled (and simply separating the lid from the cup doesn’t help).
Whilst “paper” cups would seem to imply that you should be able to recycle them alongside other paper waste, most cups have a polyethylene plastic waterproof lining which means they can’t be recycled. In fact, putting your takeaway cup in the recycling along with other paper and cardboard may actually contaminate the whole load, causing the whole lot to be sent to landfill.
It is estimated that Australia uses between 1 to 3 billion takeaway cups each year and if you also consider the amount of resources that goes into producing them, coffee cups are a real blow to the environment.
So next time you go for a coffee do the Eco-friendly thing and take 5 minutes and sit down with a ceramic mug or visit a café with bio-degradable cups, bring your own cup from home or better yet make your own coffee at home using Ethical Trading Group’s sustainable and Fair trade coffee beans.
Chip bags, and in fact most food wrappers are not environmentally sustainable as they cannot be recycled (in the normal kerbside recycling program). Although the inside of most chip packets is shiny and looks like foil they often contain several layers of metallised plastic film and should not be put into recycling.
The Scrunch Test – the simplest way to know whether a wrapper is foil or plastic is the scrunch test. If you scrunch the wrapper in your hand and it springs back it is probably plastic film and should not be put in your normal recycling. If the item remains “scrunched” then it is foil and can be recycled.
Whilst the best thing is to try and avoid plastic packaging altogether, this is much easy said than done in today’s world where almost everything comes in layers of plastic. The good news is that with new technology and increased consumer demand for environmentally friendly products and packaging this is changing.
Manufacturers and retailers are taking increasing responsibility for creating a sustainable future. Companies like RED Group, a Melbourne-based consulting and recycling organisation, developed and implemented the REDcycle Program, which is a recovery initiative for soft plastic such as chip packets and plastic bags. Partnering with Coles and Woolworths the RED Group provides drop off bins where these items can be brought to be recycled.
Most of us would think pizza boxes were reasonably environmentally friendly and technically you would be right. Pizza boxes are typically made from corrugated cardboard which can be recycled. But unfortunately this is another packaging trap.
Pizza is greasy – that is one of the reasons it is loved by many. Unfortunately, once the pizza has been put in the box the cardboard becomes contaminated with grease and cheese and other foods and can no longer be recycled. Because paper fibres cannot be separated from oils in the pulping process pizza boxes cannot be recycled.
Many councils in Australia advise residents not to include pizza boxes in their kerbside recycling because it can make recycling other paper and cardboard items very difficult and can contaminate the whole load.
IS THERE ANY GOOD NEWS?
The good news is that whilst there are some packaging traps to look out for when you are striving to be eco-friendly, consumer education can go a long way to improving environmentally sustainability and improving the way we consume. Be sure to be part of the solution and share these traps with your friends.