Facts About Packaging

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We don’t concern ourselves with convincing you that waste is bad. The fact that waste uses more energy and damages our environment over time is a truth accepted universally. It’s how we labor to reduce waste and lessen our environmental impact that we’re concerned with. To do so, we must change the way we live.

When it comes to changing things, we naturally like to make changes that:

  1. Have the greatest positive impact on the problem.
  2. Are easy and convenient for us.

Before we conceived the idea of in.gredients, we asked “how can we have the greatest impact on waste reduction?” To do so, we had to pinpoint what was actually in our waste. Here’s what we found:

  • Clean Air Council reports that the United States generates enough trash to fill 63,000 garbage trucks each day. 63,000 25-ton trucks. It’s estimated that we dump nearly 700,000 tons of trash into landfills via municipal waste streams every day.
  • Packaging makes up about 40 percent of all solid waste in those municipal waste streams – materials we don’t even want, including cardboard boxes, plastics, and foam. After some math, we learned that the packaging we throw away annually totals nearly 39 million tons of paper/paperboard, 13.7 million tons of plastics, and 10.9 million tons of glass. Whoa.
  • The total amount of packaging waste from 2005 to 2010 grew 1.8 percent annually.

Thankfully, some of that packaging waste was recycled – which uses additional energy to reduce the energy used for manufacturing from scratch. On average, 30 million tons of packaging was recycled annually from 2005 to 2010. More, however, was thrown away. In 2006 alone, 27.5 million tons of plastic products, 2.6 million tons of aluminum items, and over 10.3 million tons of glass bottles, jars, and other containers were not recycled, ending up in landfills.

These facts help put those numbers into better perspectives:

  • Americans throw away 2.5 million plastic bottles every hour.
  • Every year, Americans make enough plastic film to shrink-wrap the state of Texas.
  • The amount of glass bottles Americans throw away every two weeks would have filled both World Trade Center towers.
  • Americans throw away enough aluminum cans to rebuild our commercial air fleet every three months, and enough iron and steel to supply all our nation’s automakers every day.
  • Throwing away one aluminum can wastes as much energy as if that can were 1/2 full of gasoline.
  • In the U.S., an additional 5 million tons of waste is generated during the holidays. Four million tons of this is wrapping paper and shopping bags.

Companies often over-package their products for shipping without realizing it. Businesses can reduce their amount of shipping waste with education and communication. Although at least 28 countries have laws designed to encourage packaging reduction, the US is not one of them – leaving package waste in the hands of the consumer. Much of the waste associated with packaging are, in fact, recyclable – but it’s up to the consumer to handle it.

Nearly everywhere you shop, avoiding packaging is…well, nearly impossible. Even the bulk sections in most grocery stores require you to package your goods in plastic bags or containers. in.gredients gives you a chance to avoid packaging altogether – eliminating the energy consumed through package production and recycling and allowing you to shop with your own reusable packaging.

Written by Brian Nunnery

October 12, 2010 at 3:59 pm

3 Responses

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  1. […] the obvious tremendous waste reduction (you can get a low-down here), buying bulk foods can help you buy what you need in exactly the quantity you need it in. And […]

  2. […] America’s  first zero waste and package free grocery store, called in.gredients,  will soon be making it’s debut in Austin, Texas this fall. Their plan is simple. They will be selling natural and locally grown food in bulk, while you, the consumer bring your own reusable packaging to take your groceries home in (or you can opt to use their compostable containers). Through this method of “precycling”, creating new waste is entirely avoided, which is quite significant owing to the fact that 40% of all waste in America is from packaging that is only used once. […]

  3. There are a few more things to consider which we have learned by doing in our local health food store for years…

    Contamination… how are bulk items accessed by consumers? “hands on” shopping should definitely not be “hands in” the products… especially difficult with little kids, runny noses and dirty hands.

    Honour… sadly, many people can’t resist cheating. Filling a bottle with organic shoyu at $14/litre and calling it the $9/litre product at check out can bring your store to it’s knees FAST. Overfilling bottles past the litre mark costs profit margins you need to keep going.

    These are problems you just have to address. I’m sure you’ve considered them so what’s your solution?

    Byron Bay Australia

    July 25, 2011 at 5:06 pm

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