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.


Pass it on…

… or what to do with old plastic bags – part 1

Every time I go to the supermarket, I’m getting a bit angrier. Not only because of the amount of packaging in the shelves, but also because of the fact that it is so easy and so cheap to leave the supermarket with a dozen plastic bags no one really needs. That way I had ended up with about 50 plastic bags under my sink before I started my plastic detox.

My ''leftovers'' from B.P. (=before plastic)

My ”leftovers” from B.P. (=before plastic)

So last time I went there I decided to take lots of my old plastic bags with me, which I could give to other people in the queue that might otherwise use one of the bags from the supermarket. That way they can re-use my old bags and hopefully do the same next time. The first person I offered my bag gave me a weird look, then smiled and then told me it was very friendly of me, but not necessary. I really had to talk her into using my old bag and she still seemed a bit suspicious even after she had taken it eventually.

So I’m still contemplating if I’ve got the energy to do this every time I do a bit of shopping. But maybe someone wants to spend a day in front of the supermarket with me and give out old plastic bags to people so that they can re-use them and spread the idea of re-using things?

Lesson learned: Still lots of useless plastic in my house.

My challenge

Hi, my name is Eva-Melina and I’m an average consumer from Düsseldorf, Germany. Every year I ditch a bad habit for the time of Lent and try to live without it until Easter. This year I want to spend six weeks without buying anything made of plastic or wrapped into plastic – That means no plastic bags, bottles, containers, plastic foil etc. you name it. I got inspired by the movie Plastic Planet and an Austrian family that has been living an almost plastic free life since they watched it.

I am concerned about the tremendous effects plastic has on the environment, our health and the health of animals, so I thought that would be a good enough reason to set myself this little challenge. Most plastics we use are made of non-renewable resources that will more than outlive us. In the meantime huge amounts of waste get eaten by animals that might even end up on your plate again. Aside from the effects the production of plastic products have, there is another big problem about plastic: Most of our food and drinks are sealed, wrapped or filled in plastic that contains hormone disrupters. The alleged bad effects of that are numerous and can be looked up everywhere.

So there seem to be many good reasons for me to quit my nasty habit. But don’t get me wrong – As many of you, I would not want to miss important, long-lasting items made out of plastic like my laptop (which I actually need for my work), my phone etc., however I do think it is unneccessary to buy something sealed, wrapped or filled in a material that only serves one main purpose: To get thrown out right after opening it.

For a long time I tried to ignore the mass of plastic I threw into my bin, but I have noticed over the years that it has steadily become more and more – although I did almost always take my cotton bag for shopping and tried to avoid free plastic bags. It’s just that whatever you buy in the supermarket comes in two, three, sometimes even four or more layers of useless plastic. This goes from bananas sealed in plastic to flower pots sealed in plastic (Why? I can’t even think of hygienic reasons here?), individually wrapped lollies in plastic bags, plastic-bottled water and soft cheese in plastic containers that come with an extra plastic seal inside for – I don’t know – hygienic reasons?

I want to use this blog to share my experience with you, show you the obstacles I was confronted with and discuss your ideas on my project. I have come across certain dilemmas like plastic bottles leaving a smaller carbon footprint than glass bottles due to their reduced weight at transport, so it would be extremely interesting to hear your opinion on that. As I want all of my friends to follow my blog (not only my German speaking ones), I decided to write it in English. So follow my journey and feel free to share my blog with your family, friends or workmates!