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owadays, we pack everything and take it everywhere. Every fruit and vegetable requires a separate package or different plastic wrap. Every serving of coffee comes in a separate capsule or disposable cup. Every sip of water is drunk from half-liter plastic bottles. Every sandwich is packed in aluminum foil and every candy is wrapped in a separate wrapper. Is it really necessary? There is a lot of discussion about the need for recycling and waste sorting, but what if we didn’t generate garbage at all?

 

Before the era of supermarket chains, people bought groceries directly from farmers at fairs and bazaars. Packaging was used to protect the product against loss of freshness or damage during transport. Since then packages have become a way to provide additional information, such as the producer, the product’s nutritional value, expiration date, etc. Currently, they also play a marketing role. The aesthetics, appealing shape and logo of a well-known international company can increase the product’s value among consumers.

 
The cult of packaging even extends to companies that sell packages for luxury goods as standalone items. You can become the owner of an empty box that once contained luxury shoes for 300-500 PLN (for more information see: http://dziendobry.tvn.pl/wideo,2064,n/filip-chajzer-i-krotka-lekcja-szacunku-do-pieniedzy,232593.html). This is an extreme case, but that does not change the fact that the prevalence of packaging has gone a bit too far. This is also visible when we analyze the cost of packaging with respect to the value of the product, which R. Jansen estimates in the following proportions: 
 

    • Textiles – 1%,
    • Paper and printed goods – 3%,
    • Electrotechnical equipment – 8%,
    • Commonly used food – 12%,
    • Sweets – 30%,
    • Cosmetics and pharmaceuticals – 60%. 
As a result, it is estimated that the annual expenditure for packaging per capita is approx. $380 in the US, $300 in Germany, $240 in France, and $200 in the UK. Pretty big sums, aren’t they?

PACKAGING ALSO HARMS THE ENVIRONMENT

The overproduction of packaging also brings negative environmental consequences due to depletion of natural resources, littering or pollution of the air, water and soil. These problems are mainly visible when it comes to plastic packaging, which unfortunately has gained immense popularity.

 
For example – a plastic bag is used on average for only for 25 minutes. Later, it is often thrown away and taken to a landfill. Plastic degrades for more than 400 years. Along with its decomposition into the soil / water, numerous chemicals are released into the environment. In this way, plastic harms fauna and flora, and, indirectly, also humans.

 
We face a similar issue with plastic drink bottles. Poles consume approx. 4.5 billion plastic bottles a year. Only 1.1 billion of them are recycled and the rest go to landfills or forests. In most Polish cities, tap water is 100% safe to drink, which makes bottled water completely unnecessary (not to mention the economic benefits that are described in the article: http://jakoszczedzacpieniadze.pl/ile-kosztuje-woda-pitna from like-for-the-save)

 
Styrofoam containers for food are also a large source of poison. They are most often used to package takeaway food. The average degradation of Styrofoam is estimated at 500 years. They are produced from expanded polystyrene, which can dissolve in fat and permeate the food inside.

 
WHAT CAN MANUFACTURERS DO?

An interesting campaign has recently been published by Zero Waste Europe. “The People’s Design Lab” promotes the idea of a society in which there are no products that cannot be re-used, repaired, recycled or that simply do not need to be produced. The campaign invites visitors to its website to identify products whose current production or packaging processes are unreasonable, and propose solutions.

By browsing the site, you will learn that reusable cloth bags are the solution for plastic bags, that plastic bottles can be replaced by tap water in glass bottles, and that reusable packaging is the perfect substitute for Styrofoam food containers. Other examples of “throw-away” products include plastic straws, coffee capsules, shampoo and cream packets, non-renewable batteries, hospital footwear and much more.

We encourage you to check out http://www.peoplesdesignlab.org and cast your votes by June 26th.

 

Author: Marcin Tischner

Written by marcin