avoiding plastic packaging

Bin it where you bought it!

Why we should all leave excess packaging at its origin

Too much to throw out?

In my most recent article on The bird’s new nest (text will be online tonight) I remembered the first time I tried to shop plastic-free. The most frustrating thing was that I often got fooled by eco-friendly looking packaging – for example plastic layers hidden in cardboard boxes. As annoying as this was, I figured out what to buy and what not to buy pretty quickly.

Sometimes it helps if you shake or squeeze the packaging carefully (you can hear the plastic inside), but this method doesn’t always prove to be successful. So even though I’ve got enough experience at buying things without plastic now, it still happens to me from time to time that I accidentally end up with a double-packaged product. So what to do? My advice is to dispose of the excess packaging as close to its origin as possible – in this case the shop where you bought the product. All supermarkets in Germany provide recycling bins (as far as I know this goes for most other European countries, too), so it’s not a difficult thing to do. Of course this doesn’t make the packaging disappear, but you can set a sign that you don’t want and need several layers of it.  On top of that the shop has to face the problem of higher costs for higher amounts of waste.

This is only a very small step, but in my opinion it’s the best thing you can do if you buy an overly packaged product – plus it doesn’t fill up your bins at home. I know that some of you might find it a bit controversial – of course it’s always better not to actually buy anything overly packaged – but I’m a pragmatic person. Small steps are better than nothing!

So what do you think about this? Am I being to pragmatic? Have you ever left excess packaging at the supermarket? Would love to hear what it’s like in your country.

Packaging vs. product

What would you base your decision on?

A typical situation in my life: I’m going shopping and I need, let’s say, pasta. I used to buy organic brown pasta. When I decided to say goodbye to plastic, this suddenly wasn’t an option anymore and I had to go for a non-organic pasta brand (Barilla pasta and some other brands come in cardboard boxes for example). Guess why.

It makes absolutely no sense, but most organic products come in plastic. This is a problem I’ve been dealing with since I started my challenge. I decided it was about time to write about it. When it comes to fruits and vegetables from the supermarket, the situation is particularly bad. In order to be able to distinguish the organic from the non-organic products most supermarket chains in Germany decided to wrap all the organic fruits and vegetables in plastic. I watched a documentary about this recently and a manager from a big chain explained that they were only wrapping the organic veggies rather than the other vegetables because it would be more eco-friendly than doing it the other way round.

What to buy?

What to buy?

Sounds confusing? It is! Fortunately the fruit and veggie problem is relatively easy to solve – I just buy organic fruit on markets and in organic-only supermarkets instead. But there are some other products like the above-mentioned organic pasta (pasta is only one example, the list is pretty much endless.) that forced me to ask myself: Am I gonna go for the better product OR the better packaging?

Where can I draw the line? Is non-organic pasta in more eco-friendly packaging better than organic pasta in plastic? Am I doing more damage by focussing too much on packaging? Why can’t the label “organic” and “fair-trade” include packaging? And why are so many organic supermarkets full of plastic?

Has anyone experienced the same? Let me know your thoughts on this!