I saved the best for last in this series on up, down, and pre-cycling. Have you been grocery shopping lately? Do you pay attention to the packaging that items come in? In the last 20 years, many of the products you find at the grocery store, and elsewhere, have seen a growing amount of packaging added.
Why? Who knows for sure but I have a few guesses.
1. They want the product displayed differently and more appealing to the eye.
2. They can put less of the product in the packaging and you still feel like you get more due to the sheer size.
3. There is an assumption that consumers want more packaging to feel like the product is safer and protected from exterior bacteria etc.
The problem with excess packaging is that often times the packaging materials are not recyclable in your typical curbside recycling programs. Then, you add in the issue of changing packaging to containers that are not recyclable or worse, changing the packaging to Styrofoam.
Here is where pre-cycling comes in. pre-cycling means to assess an item for its reusability or recyclability before you purchase it. Now, you have preemptively battled the amount of trash you would be creating. Pretty cool, huh? Some stores are taking this on for you. For example, Wal-Mart has a packaging scorecard for all products that are sole in their stores. Packaging is graded on many different components (recycled content, recyclability, emissions produced in its manufacture, etc.) If a product has too low of a score, the company is asking that they change their packaging.
So, how do you do this? Let’s start with meat as it is always a difficult one. Ground beef and ground turkey are big sellers at the grocery store and luckily there is a very low waste option. Most of the meat is placed on a soaker pad and the on top or a foam piece and wrapped with clear stretch wrap. This is extremely wasteful. But, the savvy pre-cycler sees another option in the meat aisle. There are some brands of ground beef and ground turkey that come in a hard plastic container, usually a number 2 or 5 plastic, and it has a small amount of clear stretch wrap over the top of the container. The plastic container is recyclable and you end up with a small amount of plastic for the trash. No soaker pad included! See bottom left of picture below for proof.
This same thought process can be applied to other items you buy as well. Pasta in a box rather that in a plastic bag, bringing your own bag for loose fruits and veggies rather than using plastic bags, buying coffee beans in bulk and using your own glass jar rather than a plastic bag (or buy them in a paper bag rather than a plastic or foil lined one), and so on and so forth. The intricacies of bulk buying and the huge impact it can have are another topic for another day.
Some things you can’t get away from and that is understandable, but there are a lot of baby steps you can take while shopping to make a great impact on your household waste. What kinds of things have you done to be a better pre-cycler? Have you already done some of these things without realizing that you did it?