Purging the planet from plastic packaging

Plastic is the new enemy: the effects of its waste is making headlines every day. If you are lucky enough to be in the first world, you might start thinking about reducing your contribution to this global crisis.

The first time my conscience started crying was also the first time when I couldn’t fit my empty mineral water bottles in the recycle bin. It can’t be the right solution, I thought, and soon after switched to a soda machine that I have been using ever since. But nature and our own well-being are asking us more reductions, and there are already alternatives available to ease the pain for all.

No to plastic bottles

The use of plastic bottles is so widespread that it’s obvious we have to do something about it. A complete or partial ban on selling such containers is one of the options used by municipalities all over the world. Others try to find new ways of packaging liquids that do less harm to the environment. In London, March marathon runners got to participate in the largest trial of a new way of hydration. Capsules of seaweed containing sports drink were handed out to participants who could drink and eat the container and, thus, produce no waste whatsoever. Other significant events are following suit in plastic reduction: the Wimbledon tennis tournament introduces a 100% recycled water bottle and refill stations, and Glastonbury festival bans single-use plastic while also rocking a new stage made entirely of recycled plastic waste.

Dropping the bags

The global consumption of about 500 billion single-use plastic bags yearly is like a feature from an eco-horror movie so another favorite target for radical reducing action. Food packaging is also a field where startups pop up and try to offer a viable alternative. Mostly, this alternative is a biodegradable, compostable material that won’t take hundreds of years to disintegrate and not even the smallest chunks of it can cause further problems. Polish MakeGrowLab, for example, makes the packaging out of agricultural waste and claims to be as flexible and water resistant as plastic but it can also be eaten when not used anymore. Potato starches, seeds, and nanosheets of synthetic clay are also investigated as packaging materials that are easier to compost or recycle. Tropical regions have a more accessible and cheaper solution: a Thailand supermarket, Rimping, has already secured itself world fame by using banana leaves as vegetable packaging – just as in the good old markets.

Don’t stop till zero

What’s even better than reusable, recyclable or eatable packaging? Of course, no packaging at all! It might seem like a time travel back to the Middle Ages, but only at first. Small packaging-free shops are not rare in cities already, and now we are seeing some more prominent players join the movement, too. UK stores like Morrison’s, Sainsbury’s, Waitrose, and Tesco are experimenting with packaging-free sales of fresh produce, dry food, and hundreds of other products. Drogerie Markt has put their two cents in by offering package-free liquid cleaning material in their stores in Prague, in the Czech Republic. And if a healthy Earth is not a strong enough motivator, customers can get eco-items 10-20% cheaper as usual. Going green is a bargain!

Written by Anikó Jóri-Molnár

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