I like to see myself as someone who is aware of the affects of consumable waste and tend to avoid it. I always use reusable bags, cups and straws but I don’t always succeed avoiding it and I am still part of the impact of consumable waste. Unfortunately, the majority of the things I consume does come in packaging. Packaging can range from soft and hard plastic, paper, cardboard and Styrofoam.
Some examples of every day foods I eat are cereals that are packaged in cardboard, fruits are in plastic boxes and vegetables can be wrapped in paper or plastic bags. Each material is packaged differently depending on the food’s moisture, manufacturer or convenience. Ingredients that may be wet, typically are not packaged using paper or cardboard because it can weaken the packaging and even cause it to mold overtime. However, liquids are often found in cardboard boxes but they are sealed on the inside using plastic or a thin layer of aluminum foil. The packaging can also differ when it comes to different stores and manufacturers. There are selective stores that try to take action on waste and pollution and they tend to steer away from plastic packaging or packaging at all. On the other hand, there are companies that greenwash, which is a process of misleading consumers and giving the impression as if they are environmentally friendly as a marketing strategy.
Whole foods is just one example of green washing. The company likes to represent themselves as an environmentally sound company and this is shown through signs around their stores about their “Green Mission”, and although it is true that they are making small changes, it does not make up for the impact they have on plastic pollution. It is important to be careful of greenwashing as consumers including myself, are easily mislead by looking at packaging colours, designs and slogans as opposed to labels. Other stores may completely disregard the impacts of consumable waste and use plastic packaging for everything. Additionally, one of the largest influences of the use of consumable waste is convenience. Plastic is the most convenient material when it comes to packaging which makes people completely disregard the enduring and harmful impacts it has on our earth. Plastic is customizable, cheap and durable but because of this, there is countless amounts of plastics in our oceans and nature that will remain there for dozens of years.
Furthermore, it’s important that consumers realize the impact they are making and where all the consumable waste we use end up. According to the Recycling Council of Ontario, as Canadians, we only recycle 9% of our plastics, 86% goes into our landfills, 4% to incinerators and 1% end up as litter. Although 1% may seem little, it is actually 29,000 metric tonnes of plastic. These plastics entering our landfills can take anywhere from 10 to 1,000 years to decompose and even when they do, they release harmful chemicals into our seas and soils. Shockingly, 100 million marine animals die every year because of accidentally consuming or being suffocated by waste. Clearly, consumers need to be more aware of the impact of consumable waste and take action. Although it is nearly impossible to completely cut waste out of our lives, we can raise awareness and teach younger generations, take more time to recycle, reuse bags, bottles and other everyday objects, and try our best to refuse the packaging that may be harmful to our planets. By doing these things we can all contribute to lessen the negative impact of consumable waste.