Waste not, want not: How much packaging waste is too much?

We need packaging. But with it comes packaging waste. So, where do we draw the line?

Packaging is a must: just imagine a world without it.

There has always been some sort of packaging and there always will be, but is there way for us to discontinue the amount of pollution and waste produced from these necessity of life? Where do we draw the line in the agreeing to accept the reality of packaging waste into our lives?

One of the most packaging material is stretch wrap which can be highly toxic to produce. It is also very durable which makes it difficult for it to decompose if not recycled. And, the truth is, not all companies recycle, instead paying to have their packaging waste disposed of by third party companies. What if more of these manufacturers and distributors were to start recycling their plastic, paper, and cardboard? They would not only save money, they’d also help to save the environment from dangerous pollutants.

wasteOr maybe they could find an alternative for stretch wrap and other packaging material that generate the most waste. A possible substitute could be palletized adhesives that prevent sliding of products when stored on pallets. Some of these adhesives may even be cheaper than stretch wrap. They may also even produce less pollution to manufacture. Reusable bungee cords may also do the trick to replace stretch wrap while still holding products in place. There are certain foams that desinigrate when wet. This is good for the environment, but maybe not so ideal for shipping or storage.

Stretch wrap, plastic air bags, and boxes can all be recycled, but what about foam? Foam-based void fill creates a great deal of packaging waste. And whether or not it is recyclable all depends on the type of foam and the recycling company. While most styrofoam cannot be recycled,  expanded polystyrene (i.e. packaging peanuts) may be accepted at certain recycling centers. The problem with recycling foam is that it is lightweight material because it is mostly air; that means a much more expensive recycling processes and the amount of space that foam takes up. A more efficient way to recycle the packaging peanuts is to just reuse them yourself instead of sending them to a recycling center. If you do not have another use for them, you can donate them to packaging companies or post offices.

As eco-friendly as recycling your packaging waste may seem, it is not completely green. In order to recycle paper and cardboard, the papers are mixed with water to create a pulp like substance. This weakens the fibers so to make the recycled materials strong, wood chips are added into the pulp mix along with other chemicals that remove impurities.

If you are unable to recycle your packaging material, try to purchase material that is biodegradable so it can decompose easier when thrown away or find products that can be reused multiple times, such as airbags and packaging peanuts. Reducing packaging waste should be a priority for companies who produce lots of it. Sometimes it can be time consuming and tedious, but, in the end, Mother Nature will thank you.

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