This is a long piece from New Scientist, but interesting if you want to learn how to landfill less the 5 kg household waste per family per year!

I LOST 2 pounds the week I gave up packaging. Among aisles and aisles of neatly wrapped goods almost everything at my local grocery store was off-limits. Only a selection of fruit and vegetables made the grade. For milk I could buy from a local dairy that refills bottles, and I found bread without a bag at a local bakery. That was it: everything else was forbidden – even lettuce, which only came wrapped up. My conscience was clear, but my stomach wouldn‘‘t stop rumbling. A few days later, and facing malnutrition, I fell off the wagon. I cracked open a can of beans from my cupboard, and bought some fish from the local fishmonger, who wrapped it in paper. I had to buy toilet paper, which came wrapped up in plastic, and a light bulb, which I couldn‘‘t find without a box. Living packaging-free, I concluded, is pretty much impossible. At least within walking distance of my apartment.

My mission to kick the habit may have been short-lived, but I‘‘m not alone in wanting to try. In the UK, the Women‘‘s Institute, outraged by absurdities such as shrink-wrapped coconuts, last year picketed supermarkets, demanding an end to unnecessary packaging. In November, British environment minister Ben Bradshaw encouraged consumers to unwrap their goods at the checkout and leave the resulting pile of paper, card and plastic behind. Packaging is fast becoming public enemy number one. Given the amount of the stuff that passes through our homes, that‘‘s hardly surprising. Each year, US consumers throw out 69 million tonnes of packaging waste, 31 per cent of the total US waste stream. In the UK, 25 per cent of the contents of the average bin is retail packaging. The packaging industry – worth more than $150 billion a year in the US alone – sees it differently.

It maintains that consumers choose to buy products with lots of packaging, even when less-packaged choices are available. Wrapping prevents more waste than it creates, the packagers argue, by ensuring that fewer goods get damaged and then have to be discarded. So who‘‘s right? Is packaging really the bad guy, or would losing it cause more environmental problems than it solved? And what is the time-poor yet green-minded consumer to do when faced with wall-to-wall packaged goods? One factor behind the packaging explosion is the way goods are mass-produced in one part of the world and shipped to another to be sold. Products need to be boxed, wrapped or bagged in a way that gets them from the farm or factory and into the consumer‘‘s home in one piece. If the environmental impact of producing the items that might get damaged on the way is greater than that of the packaging needed to keep them safe, then the wrapping makes environmental sense.

Clearly this ceases to be an issue if we buy from local producers, but even if we do our shopping in supermarkets, can it really be true that packaging saves more waste than it creates? Recent figures are hard to come by but in their 1996 book Food, Energy and Society, David and Marcia Pimentel of Cornell University reported on the energy required to bring certain foods to market. They calculated that the energy costs of packaging a can of sweetcorn represented about one-third of the total energy required for the product – the largest single component by far. So buying corn fresh consumes less energy than buying it canned, even if a proportion of it goes to waste. The Pimentels also reported that producing the fizzy drink inside a 12-ounce (350-millilitre) aluminium can takes about 2065 kilojoules, while the can itself requires a whopping 6690 kJ. So if you are in a bar or a cafeteria, getting your drink delivered on tap into a glass or even a paper cup is going to be a better option. And when you are<

Ano da Publicação:
WARMER BULLETIN ENEWS #17-2007-April 27, 2007
Kit Strange/Warmer Bulletin
Email do Autor: