The fact is that Americans are recycling now more than ever before, but is it enough? One of the most significant sources of household waste is waste from product packaging. In fact, according to the National Recycling Coalition, about 65% of household waste comes from packaging material like foam, cardboard, and plastics. Another startling figure is that about 75% of global solid waste is from residential waste. Packaging waste is obviously a major problem, but this problem can be effectively addressed through individual decision-making.
With these facts on packaging waste in mind, it is important to look at ways you can curb your own packaging waste. Doing so may not just be good for your own green soul and the planet, but it may also help to line your wallet with extra greenbacks, too. It is estimated that about 10% of the cost of consumer goods goes towards packaging that is tossed away. Choosing products with little to no packaging, or better yet buying a gently used product, may save you a pretty penny.
So what can you do to cut down on your own packaging waste? First, buy gently used products over new products whenever possible. It is better to re-use products that are already circulating rather than buy new products with their own new packaging waste.
When you do buy new products, including everything from foods and drinks to clothing, toys, home décor, and more, opt for those products with less packaging. Some items, such as electronics that are placed in styrofoam and wrapped in plastic before being placed inside a box are the perfect example of packaging waste overload. When you do need to buy any products that are in packaging, such as shampoo, cereal, toys, and so forth that you often cannot buy without some type of packaging. Always opt for products that are in packaging that you are able to recycle. For instance, my curbside recycling program does not take corrugated cardboard and only takes plastics 1 and 2. When I buy products in plastic, such as shampoo and conditioner bottles, I will do a quick look at the little number inside the recycling triangle on the container. If it doesn’t have a 1 or a 2, I’ll look for another brand. The same goes for products in corrugated cardboard versus un-corrugated cardboard. Check with your own curbside recycling program to determine what packaging you should look for.
Also, many times buying in bulk can cut down on waste, too. However, be sure not to buy more than you need or you are creating another kind of waste. You should also consider the option to pick up and package your own coffee, nuts, veggies, fruits, breads and more. Just plan ahead and bring a reusable container or bag to the store with you.
On a side note, my family of five used to regularly fill up our trash bin for each of our bi-weekly trash pick-up days. When curbside recycling was offered in our neighborhood, I immediately signed up and saw an incredibly drastic decrease in the amount of trash we have picked up each week. In fact, by paying attention to the packaging on the products we do purchase and recycling everything we can, my family of five usually will throw out only a single bag of trash most weeks. There are many weeks when my trash bin is not full enough to bother hauling to the curb while my two recycle bins are literally overflowing.
Recycling absolutely makes a difference!