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The Harm In Plastic Packaging

plastic packaging

Each year, millions of tons of plastic packaging get thrown away worldwide with only half of it getting recycled. In many cases, it’s hard to reduce the packaging that products get shipped in without risking damage to the products. Delicate glass products and sensitive electronic equipment, for example, must be packaged in protective containers, most often made from expanded polystyrene (known as Styrofoam).

Unfortunately, these plastics can take thousands of years to decompose, and are often not included in standard curb-collection recycling programs. Since it blows in the wind and floats in the water, polystyrene litter can travel great distances from where it originates.

The environmental result from packaging delicate products in polystyrene is dramatic, polluting both woodland and water, and posing a significant hazard to wildlife. With these facts in mind, we’ve come up with a few suggestions on how you can cut down on plastic packaging waste:

Skip Online Shopping

It is so easy to buy anything from groceries to clothing online.  But do you ever think twice when you open the box and see packing peanuts and bubble wrap used for one item? As e-commerce grows so will the waste.  What can you do about it?  Purchase what you can in-store or try buying online and picking up in-store. If you need to order online, try and buy multiple items that can ship in the same package, take your packaging materials to your local shipping store to be reused, or purchase used items (like Bea Johnson from the Zero Waste Home) and ask the sender to use non-plastic packaging.

Rethink How You Purchase Electronics

Ever notice when picking up a new USB or memory card the amount of plastic packaging used can be more than five times the size of the actual item?  Or all of the styrofoam casing around your new TV?  All of that single-use plastic goes right into the trash once opened. Be conscious of buying what you need and purchasing items with the least amount of packaging.

Find Natural Alternatives

US-based company Ecovative is rethinking sustainable packaging. Their product is made primarily of mycelium, the root part of mushroom colonies. By using recycled agricultural waste, the mycelium grows into a customizable mould and then dries to inhibit further growth. The resulting material is durable, renewable, and naturally fire resistant. Store it for lengthy periods of time without any adverse effects. 

Unlike polystyrene, this mycelium-based packaging can be safely disposed of through composting. It will completely decompose in a matter of months when exposed to nature. It even provides nourishment for existing plant life as it breaks down, helping the natural environment rather than polluting it. 

Every step you take to cut down on plastic packaging helps.  Looking for more information on how to cut plastic out of more areas of your life?  Take a look at this guide from our friends at My Plastic Free Life for more tips and advice.