The Silent Threat of Your “Eco-Friendly” Packaging

In the early part of the 21st century, a booming trend was witnessed, screaming everywhere of going eco-friendly. People across the world enthusiastically embraced the concept of helping the environment, and industries began hopping on to produce and distribute an impressive display of eco-friendly products. Green became the new black, and the world was content, believing it was making a difference.

However, there’s a sinister surprise lurking beneath the shiny, eco-friendly wrapping paper and the recyclable packaging many products are housed in. Let me paint this disturbing reality for you.

Imagine the excitement rippling through you as you open your latest online delivery. It’s possibly a fashionable pair of shoes or a shiny, new coffee machine or perhaps some organic beauty products. Your heart skips a beat and soaring endorphins rush into action as you see that conspicuous label – “Packaged in 100% Recyclable Material”. You feel a sense of satisfaction and fulfillment. Not only have you received your desired product but you have also done your little bit for the environment.

But wait! There’s a silent spoiler in your justifiable joy – the silent threat of your ‘eco-friendly’ packaging. Although your packaging indicates it’s green, the reality could be miles away from being truly eco-friendly.

This might shock you, but according to WRAP (the UK’s Waste and Resources Action Programme), an eye-opening 59% percent of so-called “recyclable” packaging in the UK ends up in a landfill.

The question that arises is – Why is it so?

The answer dwells in the complicated and often confusing world of recycling systems. Not every facility is equipped to handle all types of recyclable items. For example, the infamous lightweight, plastic “clamshell” containers often used for takeout meals are technically recyclable. But due to their light weight and shape, they generally get sorted out of recycling systems and end up in landfills.

Also, there’s a limit to how many times certain materials can be recycled – and that’s if they even make it that far. The recycling of some items such as glass can be done infinitely, but plastic can typically only be recycled one to three times before it becomes unviable.

There is even a dark side to the recycling process as it consumes energy, water, and other resources. In fact, creating a new plastic from recycled materials uses two-thirds of the energy as making original or virgin plastic.

So, what does all this mean for businesses who genuinely want to make a positive contribution to the environment?

Well, this is where the evolution needs to begin. It is important to move from ‘recyclability’ to ‘sustainability’. This implies looking beyond the label of recyclability and questioning if the materials used are genuinely sustainable or are contributing to the problem disguised as a solution.

As a business, instead of focusing merely on recyclability, you can take steps to reduce the amount of packaging you use, to begin with. This reduces both the raw materials used in production and the energy spent on transportation, thus minimizing the ecological footprint.

Consider using packaging made from renewable materials and striving towards achieving a circular economy where waste is designed out of the process entirely. Businesses should aim towards zero waste and promote reuse over recycling.

You could also explore opting for compostable packaging instead of ‘recyclable’. Compostable packaging is made from plant materials that break down within a short span under appropriate conditions. However, this comes with its challenges. If compostable materials end up in landfills where there is no oxygen, they can break down anaerobically and release methane, a potent greenhouse gas.

So, whether you are a business owner, responsible for packaging decisions, or a consumer who’s making purchase decisions, be vigilant. Look beyond the immediate appeal of “100% recyclable” labels. Delve deeper, ask questions and where possible, make decisions that reduce consumption, promote reuse, and lastly, ensure true recyclability.

Being conscious is the initial and the most significant step towards making real, valuable change. It is about time we all reevaluate our ‘eco-friendly’ choices and take proactive steps towards genuine sustainability. The silent threat of the eco-friendly packaging doesn’t remain silent anymore. And remember, every effort, every step, however small, counts in this massive, global fight against environmental damage.