Let’s face it, in our fast-paced, convenience-driven world, it’s hard for us to live without packaging. We need it to not only safely store and transport food (in particular given health concerns with flu epidemics and all), but to safely transport many of the goods and services we need in our daily lives, from computers and medical equipment to furniture and light bulbs.
So, the reality is that containers and packaging made up the largest portion of municipal solid waste generated in the US in 2009 – 30 percent or 72 million tons (before recycling).*
Great, so we recycle and the problem is solved. Right? Unfortunately it’s not that simple. Did you know that of the containers and packaging made out of plastic, only 14% was recycled?* Even if we throw it in the blue box, it more than often does not end up where it should.
*Source: United States Environmental Protection Agency, 2011
Unfortunately there is no place called “away”. Our landfills are overflowing and durable packaging made out of Styrofoam or plastic has found its way to places such as the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. It’s a huge mass of plastic and other debris, estimated to be twice the size of Texas, that sits just beneath the surface of the Pacific Ocean. This garbage patch formed gradually as a result of marine pollution gathered by oceanic currents. About 80 per cent of the garbage is estimated to have come from land-based sources, and the rest from ships. Not only does it float in the ocean, but some of the debris, such as pieces of plastic, has been found in the stomachs of marine birds and other animals.
At Earthcycle, we strive to make products that don’t add to the growing landfills and garbage patches across the ocean. Rather, we design them with the cycle of nature in mind so that they can return back to the earth as a healthy contribution to the soil. Compostable packaging, such as Earthcycle, is biodegradable if composted in a home or industrial composter, However, when these products break down within merely a few weeks and turn into hummus, they release valuable nutrients into the soil, which helps growth of plants and trees.
Great, so you say, “the technology is out there so I don’t need to worry!” Again, it’s not that easy. While we are doing our part to promote and push our products into the fresh produce and food services industries and are represented in many of the major retail locations such as select Wal-Mart, Publix, Safeway, Loblaw's, Kroger and Wegmans, among other retailers, we still need the help of you, the consumer. It is your need and wants, your interest and concern that matter to the industry. For example, if you frequently inquire about eco-packaging progress, or even ask for or demand a change in packaging at your local grocer, much needed change will come about much faster.
There’s a lot you can do individually, with your family, in your community and online to help improve our packaging challenge. Here are some simple steps to help you join and advance the path of packaging change:
You are reading this Action Guide, so you are already off to a good start. Don’t stop here. There are thousands of environmental websites to surf on the Internet not to mention a whole section of “green” living guides in your local bookstore or library. Your local municipality should also have a lot of advice on environmentally friendly living, including tips on recycling and composting and how to save energy around your home. For packaging and composting specific resources, check out the following:
Don’t stop at reading books or surfing the Internet. Find out what you can do in your local community to participate. For example, find out what the status of programs is, such as recycling, compost curbside pick-up and more, or join a committee in your condo complex or neighborhood on recycling and composting. No program or committee available, then make your voice heard and get hands on yourself and start leading a program.
Now that you are educated and involved, start telling others about what you know. That includes your friends and neighbors, as well as local organizations that may not be on the same awareness path yet. Share your experiences, stories, challenges, successes and concerns. Share your resources, tips and lessons learned. You can also spread the word online. Blogs are a great way to get your message across and interact with likeminded individuals.
Get the scoop on eco-responsible packaging and engage on our Earthcycle Facebook page at www.facebook.com/earthcycle. We look forward to seeing you there!
If your local grocery store isn’t using eco-friendly packaging for their produce and other packaging, or not doing their part with recycling and composting, ask why. Make it known that you care about better packaging and would like to have the choice. Make it known that you care about being informed of their best practices and where their packaging and products come from. Talk to role model local businesses about their best practices and help share their stories.
Change will come about by making commitments to replacing unproductive habits by forming new habits one step at a time. The critical thing is that we commit and get started. Do one thing and do that well. Then move to the next. Don’t give up if you do not see immediate results. Stand up for what is important to you (don’t wait for someone else to speak up), and keep making smart choices each and every day!
Copyright 2005-2014. Earthcycle Packaging Ltd. All rights reserved. Earthcyle is a registered trademark of Earthcycle Packaging Ltd.