Reducing Packaging Waste

5 minute read

There are 7.6 billion people on Earth. That means 7.6 billion opportunities to save our planet. Pollution and waste are everywhere and come in all shapes and sizes. In today’s world, more and more people and companies are trying to do their part to save the environment. Unfortunately, efforts at pollution control are often surpassed by the scale of the issue. If you want to do your part in reducing packaging waste and saving our planet, you have more options than you think.

Let’s start with some not-so-fun facts. According to the World Ocean Network, 6.5 million tons of litter enter the world’s oceans every year. 50% of that is long-lasting plastic that will drift for hundreds of years before it is degraded. Take toothbrushes for example. Many aren’t aware that plastic toothbrushes should be recycled. Over 1 billion plastic toothbrushes per year end up in landfills, and these take nearly 450 years to decompose. Globally, 100,000 marine mammals and turtles are killed every year by plastic litter. And it’s not just our ocean friends that are affected by pollution. Gastroenteritis/respiratory diseases in 250 million humans yearly are caused by bathing in contaminated waters. A publication by Conserve Energy Future reports that over 1 billion people worldwide do not have access to safe drinking water, and 5,000 people die every day because of drinking polluted water and neglectful discarding of waste. Americans alone contribute to the purchasing of more than 29 million bottles of water every year, yet only 13% of these bottles get recycled.

Sure, sometimes pollution is inevitable. Natural disasters contribute to the issue as well, such as the 2011 Tsunami in Japan, which created 70 miles of debris consisting of cars, plastic, and radioactive waste. But while there is a laundry list of actions and events that contribute to pollution and waste, in our control or not, there are several actions we can take as companies and individuals to reduce this issue, and one category of actions is in the packaging world.

  1. Promote Minimal Packaging. I cannot count the number of times I have purchased an item that is packaged in an overabundance of materials. A product might be placed inside of a box that is shrink wrapped inside another box that is filled with bubble wrap and secured with a plastic strap. Even cutting out one of those materials brings us one step closer to saving the planet and reducing your carbon footprint. Sure, it’s the product that determines the application. But if every company looked at their packaging components versus the product inside, there is a good chance that at least one piece of material can be eliminated. That’s one less piece of material that may end up in our oceans.
  2. Use Safer Materials. Here at Wexler, one method we stress is the banding of products with brown and white paper, or polypropylene and polyethylene film, all of which are environmentally friendly and reduce waste disposal costs. Seeking out biodegradable packaging can make a big difference. Certain kinds of packaging material can be broken down in commercial composting facilities. Biodegradable packaging ensures that none of the packaging material goes into the landfills.
  3. Think Sustainability. Wexler Packaging Products recognizes our responsibility to uphold sustainability whenever we can. Less waste = less burden on the environment. If each company takes the stance that their commitment to the environment is not a burden, but rather an opportunity to explore alternative packaging solutions, a difference can be made.
  4. Reduce. Reuse. Recycle. Make recycling bins readily available at your home and office. Sometimes the convenience factor makes all the difference. In an office setting, having recycling bins scattered around the office next to trash cans can force employees to think before throwing. At the office, reuse your morning coffee cup, or print on both sides of the paper. At home, turn the spaghetti sauce jar into an attractive piece of home décor or save old toothbrushes for scrubbing small spaces, but recycle all when you are finished. Or better yet, use a mug instead of paper or Styrofoam cups, view a digital file on your computer instead of printing, make spaghetti sauce from scratch, and swap out your plastic toothbrush for a biodegradable bamboo one.
  5. Educate Yourself. Understand that it is not only paper that should be recycled, it is any form of plastic bottles or containers, plastic bags, paper, cardboard, aluminum cans, glass jars, etc. Once you educate yourself and your staff/co-workers, it can become a domino effect. One tip is to hang signs around the office indicating what should be recycled and what shouldn’t be. If all individuals within a company take their knowledge on recycling home with them, that many more households make an impact. And when you have a knowledgeable staff, they will pass that along to prospects and customers, steering them in the right environmentally-friendly direction.

Every packaging decision you make effects the environment. It’s up to us to decide whether that effect will be negative or positive. By following these few simple steps and learning about the facts, we can make smarter decisions not just in the packaging industry but in your day to day life. Reducing waste and disposing of it in the proper manner can help your organization reduce its carbon footprint.

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