Sunday, 15 March 2015

Good Packaging

Now and again we look at packaging, and whether it is recyclable or not. As before, we selected a sample of companies and looked at their products, then asked them for more information if their labelling was unclear, or they weren't using recyclable materials.

Recyclable is good; biodegradable (as long as it is clearly labelled) is even better.

This is a good company - after eating one of their tasty products I spotted this on the back:

Fully compostable bags: great! So many companies make excuses and try to claim that even recyclable isn't possible for their packaging - companies like Inspiral really show them up, and prove that it is possible to put the environment first.

Seed and Bean
The Seed and Bean Company have been featured before, but any company that puts such care into its packaging deserves regular praise:

Companies which don't even use recyclable packaging. This seems to be contrary to the law: The Packaging and Packaging Waste Directive (94/62/EC) requires that packaging be designed for recovery and re-use. Some of the companies we get in touch with claim there were no recyclable packaging options for them and try to justify why they use packaging destined for the bin: which shows how out-of-touch they were, since in many cases their rivals sell similar products in recyclable or compostable packaging! Unfortunately packaging is an area where bad companies will make any excuse so that they can take the easier, but environmentally-damaging, option. Don't stand for it. Question them about their packaging and stop buying from the worst offenders.

I always find it patronising when I'm told by a company that the packaging is non-recyclable "for my benefit". As a consumer I care about the environment far more than any non-perceptible differences in freshness, and am irritated by the implication that I would have my priorities any other way. But it is like the terrible growth or Tetrapak (replacing glass bottles and - less good than glass, but far better than Tetrapak - plastic bottles): once some companies use it others go down the same route, and we end up with a whole industry selling products that are consumed in seconds but wrapped in something that pollutes for decades (or longer), which is just not justifiable on any ethical grounds.

Hula Hoops
Like many junkfood/snack products, Hula Hoops (KP) are sold in packaging which isn't even recyclable, and just adds to the landfill waste problem.

Hula Hoops: "Bin Your Bag" irresponsibility

The following companies also refuse to use recyclable packaging. They chose not to comment on this policy when we gave them a chance to do so, even though we explained that a non-response could be interpreted as a lack of concern about environmental issues.
  • Kettle Chips (actually crisps, not chips)
  • Walker's Crisps

More on the issue

An example of confusing labelling:
is this packaging recyclable, or intended for the bin?

It's clear to anyone who pays attention that more and more products are being packaged in non-recyclable materials (usually foil-impregnated plastics) e.g. crisps, bars of chocolate and so on. It’s a worrying trend that things have to go in landfill sites when there are recyclable or biodegradable alternatives. We even did a check at a local shop and most pre-packaged snacks were either (confusingly) labelled as non-recyclable, or had no indication at all (so could easily end up with recycling and mess up the batch). This is a worse situation than it was a few years ago.

We contacted DEFRA about this towards the end of 2014, asking why it wasn’t law that all packaging had to be recyclable or biodegradable? Charging for plastic bags in supermarkets in Wales caused a real reduction in plastic waste, so initiatives can work – if left to the companies that would never have happened. Recyclable packaging is a similar issue that needs top-down regulation. We wanted to know if DEFRA was doing anything about this, e.g. planning to make a law so that all packaging has to be recyclable. It took a few attempts to get a reply, but the short answer was "No, we are not really doing anything along the lines you suggest and have no plans to."

The message is still clear - it is up to the consumer to avoid buying bad products. Every penny is a vote. In many cases you might even find you can do without, or make something yourself that is healthier, better, cheaper, and more rewarding than giving money to multinational companies.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Thanks for this, I get really annoyed by teh amount of plastic and other packaging, and also that most of it can't be recycled