Posts Tagged ‘packaging’

Monday Moaning

Stop Global Whining!

Everybody is hooked on plastic bags, on plastic packaging, etc. Although we have discovered that plastic bags only make up a small amount of the total pollutants (covered in a previous post), they are among the most visible.

We can find plastic bags hanging on trees and fences, blowing across the landscape, clogging ditches and waterways, choking marine life in the sea; not to mention the landfills are full of them.

Some countries have added a surcharge on plastic bags in supermarkets as a means of reducing their use. This has worked to a limited extent.

But we need to go further.

There is one country, and a most unlikely one, that has banned plastic bags of all types. You even get your baggage searched at the airport arrivals and any plastic bags are confiscated.

Think you can’t live without plastic bags? Consider this: Rwanda did it

As a post-genocide nation with a developing economy, Rwanda could have dismissed the bag ban as unnecessary. But it didn’t

A shopper carries her shopping with free supermarket shopping bags. Photograph: ANDY RAIN/EPA

On a recent trip to Rwanda, my luggage was searched at the border, and the authorities confiscated some of my belongings. No, I wasn’t trying to smuggle drugs or weapons. The offenders? Three plastic bags I’d use to carry my shampoo and dirty laundry.

You see, non-biodegradable polythene bags are illegal in Rwanda. In 2008, while the rest of the world was barely starting to consider a tax on single-use plastic bags, the small East African nation decided to ban them completely.

At Kigali International Airport, a sign warns visitors that plastic bags will be confiscated. Agents from the Rwanda Environment Management Authority (REMA) cut the plastic wrapping off negligent travellers’ suitcases. Throughout the country, businesses have been forced to replace plastic carrier bags with paper ones.

The ban was a bold move. It paid off. As soon as I set foot in Rwanda from neighboring Uganda, it struck me. It’s clean. Looking out the window of the bus that was taking me to Kigali, the capital, I could see none of the mountains of rubbish I’d grown accustomed to in other African countries. No plastic carrier bags floating in the wind or stranded on a tree branch.

Upon arrival in Kigali the contrast is even more evident. With its lovely green squares and wide boulevards, the Rwandan capital is one of the most beautiful cities in Africa. And it’s immaculate. Enough to teach a lesson to scruffy – albeit beloved – Western metropolises like New York or London. And the ban on plastic bags is just the start for Rwanda. It’s all part of the Vision 2020 plan to transform the country into a sustainable middle-income nation.

Eventually, the country is looking to ban other types of plastic and is even hinting at the possibility of becoming the world’s first plastic-free nation. Its constitution recognizes (pdf) that “every citizen is entitled to a healthy and satisfying environment.” It also underlines each citizen’s responsibility to “protect, safeguard and promote the environment”.

Throughout the world, many initiatives to reduce or ban the use of non-biodegradable plastic bags have been halted because of economic concerns. In England, for example, there is ongoing concern that a 5p levy on single-use carrier bags could harm small businesses.

Still reeling from a horrific genocide which resulted in the deaths of over 800,000 people in 1994, Rwanda could have dismissed the plastic ban as an unnecessary hindrance for its developing economy. It could have opted for a simple levy on plastic carrier bags, as have many other American cities. But the authorities’ main concern was the way in which plastic bags were being disposed of after use. Most were being burned, releasing toxic pollutants into the air, or left to clog drainage systems.

Knowing it lacked the basic facilities to sustainably manage plastic waste, Rwanda devised a clever strategy to turn the ban into a boost to its economy. The authorities encouraged companies that used to manufacture plastic bags to start recycling them instead by providing tax incentives. The policy also created a market for environmentally friendly bags, which were virtually non-existent in the country before the ban.

Now in its sixth year, the policy has proved efficient, if not perfect. Rwanda is starting to struggle with a lucrative black market for the shunned plastic bags. The excessive use of paper bags is also starting to raise concerns. But the mere fact that a developing country facing tremendous challenges has managed to enforce such groundbreaking legislation should make us wonder what the western world could achieve if the political will really existed.

000theGuardianLogo

Opinion:

If a country like Rwanda can do it, everybody can do it. Simple.

The problem is that we don’t really want to. Everybody moans and groans, and we pay lip service to the problem, but we don’t really want to give up such a convenience.

c_stop_global_whining

My message is Stop Global Whining and do it!

Only when we ban them completely will the problem go away.

plastic-kills-marine-life

sweepitunderthesea

Just because we can’t see it under the sea, doesn’t mean it’s not there!

 

 

Monday Moaning

Are we on the wrong track?

Have we missed the point?

Everybody is jumping on the bandwagon, bloggers, governments, environmentalist, but have we picked the wrong band?

It would appear so.

Whole cities are banning plastic supermarket bags or charging a small fee. Okay, this is good, but it’s not the answer. Plastic shopping bags are not the villain!

The villain is is the other 99,97% that we are not complaining about, or are, but not so loudly.

roadside-plastic-bagsThe plastic shopping bag is merely the most visible villain.

They are like roadside billboards, seen everywhere, seen in the garbage dumps, seen being blown by the wind in parks and countryside. They are a constant reminder and hence we see them as the villain.

But, here’s the surprise, the plastic shopping bag on makes for 0.03% of all plastic garbage, just 0.03% and we are howling ‘villain!’

Plastic bags: symbol of consumer waste may ignore worse offenders

Campaign to consign polluting carrier bag to the bin of history misses valuable point, say recyclers and packaging firms

Plastic bag use is still rising in England despite wholesale reductions of use in Northern Ireland and Wales. Photograph: Nigel Barklie/Rex Features

The greatest contribution that plastic bags have made to human society is their use as a toilet. In developing countries, the bags are commonly used as a repository for human faeces, where they end up hanging from trees. It is not pretty, and not particularly environmentally friendly, but it is better than the alternatives, of allowing detritus to make its way into drinking water supplies and thus spreading disease.

Still plastic bags are found polluting waterways and ending up in the sea, where they are a menace to marine life. Earlier this year, a whale was found to have died of plastic pollution, its guts clogged up with our packaging castoffs. The problem is so great that there is now a floating pool of rubbish in the Pacific, greater in extent than any other detectable man-made impact on the environment.

So when Nick Clegg, depute prime minister, announced a charge for plastic bags at the Liberal Democrat annual conference, there was cheering among delegates hungry for a new way to emphasise the party’s commitment to the environment. The charge – if it comes about, and there are doubts as to how it will be implemented, and its efficacy as a result – should deter people from using the bags. And in the process, tackle a potent symbol of throw-away consumerism.

But plastic bags are only a small part of the problem. They account for only 0.03% of marine litter, according to the industry organisation Incpen.

The packaging that we all use, in day-to-day activities from buying food in supermarkets to our deliveries from online shopping centres, has a much greater – though less obvious – effect on pollution. A much greater percentage of non-biodegradable litter comes from food packaging such as the wrappers around food stuffs in supermarkets. Moves are afoot to cut that, supported by the retailers themselves, but there is still a long way to go.

Charges for plastic bags have already been introduced in parts of the UK, including Wales and Northern Ireland, so we already have an indication of how the policy could work in practice. Anna Beggs, from Northern Ireland, where the charge is already in force, told the Guardian: “I try to remember to bring my own bags so that I don’t have to pay. If most people do that it will cut down on the plastic bag blight, especially in the countryside.” The charge is 5p, compared with 25p in Ireland.

Charging for plastic bags demonstrably cuts down on their use. A Welsh Assembly official said: “Since we introduced our 5p carrier bag charge in October 2011, bag use in Wales has reduced by up to 96% in some retail sectors and over £4m worth of proceeds from the charge have been passed onto good causes, which include environmental charities such as Keep Wales Tidy, children’s charities and cancer charities. Since the introduction of the charge, people in Wales have changed the way they shop. It has encouraged shoppers to stop unnecessarily accepting new bags every time they are at the till and checkouts in Wales are now full of people reusing their bags.”

The charge is not technically a tax but is paid into a fund that goes to good causes.

Maggie Dunn, a Labour party activist, says that charging for the bags in England, as Clegg has suggested, is overdue. “I support this – it is unacceptable, how many bags we throw away. We need to think about the consequences – they are in the sea, they are harming nature.” Her view is that people will accept the proposed charges, if they are introduced, but that they need to be higher to people from using the bags. She suggests 50p would be more effective.

Despite its reputation as the epitome of extravagant waste, packaging such as plastic films and paper wrappings for food, also play their part in environmental pollution. Companies and retailers that routinely rely on packaging point out that when food is spoiled for lack of preservative wrappings, the environmental cost is much greater than the impact of bags. In India, for example, and other developing countries, the UN has calculated that the spoiling of edible foods means that as little as half of the quantity produced makes it to market in an edible condition. The lack of cold storage facilities and poor refrigeration accounts for some of that, but the waste is one of the biggest factors in making it hard for the world to feed itself – an increasing problem in the context of a global population estimated to top 10bn by 2050, and the need to increase food production by more than half to cater to that rapidly growing need, according to the UN.

“People equate plastic with waste and that is understandable, but what people don’t realise is that packaging has a job to do – ensuring that the product doesn’t get overheated on the dock, or in the lorry, or to deliver the goods in a good condition,” says Jane Bickerstaffe of Incpen.

Take a case in point – cucumber growers, who need to preserve their fast deteriorating food as soon as it is picked. “A cucumber wrapped in plastic needs only about 1.5 grams of plastic in its wrapper, but that extends the life of the product from about three days to at least 15 days, and when you look at the effort and environmental impact of growing a cucumber, the water and the fertiliser and all the rest, you can see we are preserving resources.”

Bickerstaffe is alive to the impacts of plastic packaging, but she urges people to take a broader view than the rubbish that they fill their household bins with. “It is understandable that people do not think beyond their own experience. They take it for granted. But they don’t realise that the vegetable wouldn’t have got to the shop without plastic.” Companies are also taking the lead in recycling plastics, reducing the amount of packaging they use – which also cuts their costs – and finding new materials that can be substituted for polymers. But Bickerstaffe admits: “I don’t think we have the answers yet.”

Read more

Read more

 

 

Change the World Wednesday – 12th Sept

These do NOT make coffee, they produce dirty water

A week ago, I started my CTWW with coffee and no teeth, today, I have neither, but the pondering continues.

I am waiting for the water to boil for my coffee, and before that, you’re not going to get a lot.

People in the First World need gadgets. They have machines to do everything. If everybody just spent 10 minutes more of everyday in the kitchen and made coffee the old fashioned way, straining water through ground coffee beans you wouldn’t have the millions of coffee makers that are around the world. Now you add up all those coffee makers, all that plastic, metal, elements and glass that would never have to be mined, manufactured, transported and eventually thrown away.

That equals a lot of raw materials never extracted, refined and processed. All that petroleum saved, all that electricity never produced and used.

Fresh ginger

My kitchen smells deliciously of ginger this morning. Yesterday I marinated my steak in soya sauce and coarsely grated ginger root and today the kitchen still smells  fresh and clean.

I have a clump of ginger rhizomes in the garden, every now and then I break off a hunk for the vege bowl.

I must break the clump up and spread it out so that it will grow again this season.

My compost tomatoes haven’t ripened yet, but a couple are showing that yellowish tinge, so it won’t be long now.

My passionfruit vines had their first flower during the week, so hopefully they will be more successful and I will have passionfruit for this season.

Change the World Wednesday for this week is a great one. Apt for today because I am off to the supermarket after class.

This week, pick a food item which you normally buy in a package (especially a plastic package) and find a better alternative. For example, rather than buy beans in a plastic bag, look for them in the bulk isle of the market and fill your own container. Rather than buy produce in plastic “clam shells”, see if you can find them loose, without packaging. If you typically shop at a supermarket (where almost everything is packaged in plastic) consider shopping at a farmer’s market, food co-op, wholesale market or organic food store for better options. The idea, here, is to find at least one “green” alternative to plastic packaging … and, while doing without might be an appropriate alternative, we’re more interested in finding the food in acceptable/no packaging for this challenge.

 

Or … If, in your area, you find it nearly impossible to buy food which isn’t packaged in plastic, please speak to your market’s owner/manager to see if they can offer any alternatives. Talk to neighbors and members of the community to search out options.

 

Or … If none of the above works out, please write letters to your government officials and/or start a petition asking for plastic free food packaging.

Farmer’s markets, etc are the answer, but I have explained that is not feasible for me, so I am stuck with the supermarket.

They have many products prepackaged in polystyrene with wrap. For example they have shredded cabbage, I prefer to buy a small cabbage and it takes about 30 seconds to shred enough to use, so I wouldn’t even entertain the idea.

I have managed to get the fresh produce guy to put fruit in a simple plastic bag for me rather than buy a tray with wrap. But it’s got to be in a bag for ‘security reasons.’

These trays are really so unnecessary

They have prepackaged meat as well, but I always go to the counter and get my meat in a simple plastic bag, or get my bacon cut fresh and not use their cryo-vacced stuff, besides it always looks pale and insipid. A hunk cut fresh from a side is much more appealing.

So that takes care of the second part of the challenge. I am always on the look out to at least reduce packaging if I can’t eliminate it.

Today I will check around and see what else I can reduce, and then I will do an update.

Update

I failed.

Apart from the fact that the supermarket didn’t have many of the things I wanted, which is becoming all too often these days, I saw some wonderful filled pies, they were open topped, sort of like little 4″ quiches. The soft pastry would have been destroyed if they had been packed in anything but a polystyrene tray and covered in plastic wrap. There were four different fillings, I just had to have one of each… I felt so guilty when the girl in the deli section wrapped them.

But I managed to assuage my guilt over morning coffee…

They were scrumptious!

I’m off to the other supermarket in a couple of days, I’ll try again then.

Zero Footprint

Finnish family wants invisible eco footprint

Inspired by an American author’s quest to lead a zero-impact lifestyle in New York City, a Finnish family in the western town of Pori has decided to adopt a similar extreme challenge.

Going plastic-free can be challenging. Image: Yle / Timo Nykyri

 

Sarianna Trogen said her family figured that if an eco-friendly lifestyle was possible to achieve Manhattan, it wouldn’t be impossible in Pori.

“We moved closer to the city centre to avoid having to use public transport, we use green energy and don’t buy anything new unless we have to,” she explains.

Like many situations in Colin Beavan’s “No Impact Man,” Sarianna Trogen and Janne Isaksson have also run into the profusion of packaging waste, especially at the grocery store.

Pori, Finland

Individually wrapped universe

“You can find unpackaged sausages in old-fashioned markets. Sarianna has also made her own bags for fruit and vegetables,” says partner Janne Isaksson.

“While it’s relatively simple to find locally sourced food, selection shrinks in the winter—especially when searching for unpackaged vegetables,” Trogen explains.

But a lack of information is perhaps one of the biggest obstacles to living a no-impact lifestyle.

“The greatest amount of time is spent determining what is the most ecological thing to do in a certain situation,” the couple says.

Source: Yle An English language Finnish news site

Monday Moaning

With the world’s population growing at an exponential rate, so too are the uses of nature’s resources and we are running out.

Are we looking at another case of the tail wagging the dog?

We are trying to stem the population growth rate by preventing births, when in fact the problem is we have achieved such medical breakthroughs that not enough people are dying. But, that’s a separate issue

To me the obvious problem is consumerism.

We have become such a consumer society that each day our hunger for ‘more’ and ‘new’ has become outrageous. Our hankering for the ‘lastest’, ‘biggest’ and ‘fastest’ has driven our utilisation of resources beyond the levels of sustainable.

As a society our ethos has to change.

The existing paradigm is not working.

We are giving our kids the wrong message, they give their kids an even worse message, the problem is exacerbated with every generation.

Read a great message on: Stiff Kitten’s Blog a definition of what we have become.

Think about the useless products that are created that people don't need. If you can't crack an egg, stay out of the kitchen

With each new product, we have production increases, more materials used, more pollution, more problems with transport, more and more we find ourselves in the predicament of how do we dispose of the extra rubbish generated. The trash is the packaging and the the advertising. The advertising is polluting our media and the internet, sign boards are polluting our vision, light is polluting our skies, so that we can’t even see the stars at night in the cities. Then there is the dilemma of the disposal of outdated products and worn out components.

Society has to change. We have got to control our cravings. Our mentality is totally screwed up.

The scale of consumerism is closely linked to corporate greed. The corporations want to make more money, so they make more products; to sell the products they have to brainwash the consumer into needing them. The cycle is vicious and never-ending.

It is essential that we tackle consumerism before population control. We have to get the dog back in control of its tail.

 

 

%d bloggers like this: