Busting Flexible Packaging Myths with Sustainability Advocate Shelbi Orme

Glass is better than plastic – 

While reusing is a great short-term solution to help our environment, it does not save our world in the long run. To be a completely waste-free society, we would have to live in a sustainable utopia by having a reusable deposit system funded and coordinated by producers, but as I am sure you know, we don’t. So, in theory, glass seems like the better alternative to plastic in every scenario, but is this really true? While it is recyclable and reusable, glass is much heavier and more fragile than plastic. Because of this, it is not only more expensive to transport glass, but it also pollutes and wastes more materials than necessary for that of plastic. The fragility leads to broken glass that majority of the time is not disposed of properly or ends up never being recycled. Most producers try to prevent this by adding extra padding which ultimately never gets recycled, adding more waste to the planet. And last but not least, the weight causes more emissions during traveling as well as more expensive costs. Though these few issues exist, glass should be used as an alternative for things that you use daily such as cups, containers, straws, etc. to help the environment right now. Although glass is sometimes the better alternative, there are still holes and complications in its mission to help the environment. 

 

Choosing the most recyclable material is the best option – 

This may sound like a huge shock, but let’s face it, our recycling system is fundamentally flawed. In the current state of our system, the better option is sometimes the non-recyclable one. Some non-recyclables contain a smaller number of materials compared to that of recyclable packaging. This reduces shipping costs in addition to leaving a smaller carbon footprint during transportation. With recycling being as unreliable and sometimes as ineffective as it should be, it makes more sense for consumers to focus on specific materials that benefit the environment as a whole versus the label put on recyclable options. In addition to this, it makes more sense to build a systematic recycling program around those beneficial materials that make a more positive impact on the environment. This is the purpose of the Flexible Packaging Association. If you want to help support and make a positive impact on the environment, take some time and look into EPR or extended producer responsibility bills in your state at this site. In these times of fighting the waste crisis, make sure to consider all options, and don’t close your mind to unconventional routes. When it comes to packaging materials, less is always more. 

 

All packaging is created equal – 

While I would love to say that all packaging is equal and sustainable, that is simply false. In recent debates, people have been arguing whether glass or aluminum is always better but this wavers depending on what the packaging is being used for, i.e. food preservation, reducing food waste, etc. I think y’all already know my thoughts about what packaging should be used (flexible mixed material), but not all producers use this product. So, in the debate of glass vs. aluminum, you first must consider what it is going to be used for. For instance, glass is nowhere near as effective in preserving pet food as aluminum because of the light that can be exposed through the glass where it can’t through aluminum. Both products are made to be used for different purposes, and that’s okay! We can’t let ourselves get so stuck in the mindset of “which is better” that we ignore the things that actually work for our specific needs. More than one-third of all produced food is thrown away before ever reaching the hands of a consumer. Don’t let your want to save the environment cloud your judgment against other world issues. 

 

Package free is always the best option – 

This is probably yet another shocking thing to hear me say, but package-free does not always equal a happy environment. This is because of the food preservation that we talked about above. For example, have you ever wondered why some fruits and vegetables come pre-wrapped in plastic? That is because it’s there to help preserve the produce. As you very well know, fruits and vegetables go bad very quickly, and to combat this, producers found that pre-wrapping them in plastic helps preserve them for longer periods of time. While it’s unfortunate that not all food can stay fresh without packaging, it is essential in making sure that more food doesn’t go to waste. In addition to this, the wrapping known as PE film is usually recyclable through in-store drop-off programs. So, if you are worried about creating more waste, this is still a great option to seek out. Now if you know for sure your food will reach you before it goes bad or have another process in your home that preserves food without using packaging, by all means, use that. But just know, there are other alternatives to recycle this packaging and it is used for the greater good of the environment. 

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