packaging as far as the eye can see

Somewhere at some time I saw an article as I was getting sucked into the abyss that is the internet – probably BuzzFeed – about the problem of over-packaging.  The author included images of C A R A A A Z Y amounts of packaging, both in-store and from online purchases.  I am sure you have seen them too – plastic-wrapped avocados, peeled bananas, or even single apples shrink-wrapped onto a foam plate.  WHA – WHAAAT!  One of the images in the article was a giant Amazon box with crazy amounts of bubble-wrap; I thought it was for a gaming console… but what did it contain?  A tiny memory card.

My issue is that companies are not held accountable for this irresponsibility.  Furthermore, the packaging industry is BIG money, especially plastics, and in Canada, oil and gas companies receive subsidies, which is why virgin plastics are “preferred” over recycled plastics in packaging.  It is a big mess.

I found that when shopping from supposed sustainable companies – I often ran into the same problem.  I shop local as much as I can to support my local economy and small businesses, reduce the carbon footprint from shipping, and I can get many things without packaging – win!  However, I live in a small city, so many things are unavailable directly from a seller or maker, which is why I turn to online purchases.  I try to keep it close to home, so I research businesses in the region, then the province, then national, and if I have to… on the same continent.  Many things to consider.

I would love to know what kind of packaging atrocities you have come across.  And if you contacted the company regarding their packaging.  And if you let them know you’d stop buying from them UNTIL they change their packaging.  AND if they gave you a logical reason or not.

For example…

I once purchased a pair of sunglasses online.  They were made in Vancouver with a walnut wood frame.  The image showed the packaging was a wooden box.  I ordered it, because the company shared my environmental philosophy.  Then it arrived in the mail, and what did I get: a plastic envelope containing the wooden box, five separate pieces of plastic packaging, as well as a bag for the sunglasses.  Crazy.  Especially because the wooden box was so sturdy.  I contacted them immediately.  Fortunately, they had received numerous complaints and changed their packaging.  YAY!

I once purchased new cloth diapers in addition to my second-hand ones.  Big mistake.  They came individually plastic-wrapped.  I contacted the company stating I would not purchase any more of this brand until their packaging changed.

I once purchased a beautiful comb made of horn and wood.  It arrived plastic-wrapped within a box, within a plastic envelope.  Same thing – I told the company I would not purchase any more until they changed their packaging.

I do not always get a response from the businesses I contact, and when I do, they defend their choices without having considered alternatives.

For example, businesses often claim the packaging is to PROTECT the item.  That may well be true, however, the only thing plastic packaging protects from is moisture, not damage; what is more likely to protect an item if squished in a delivery truck: a flimsy bag of plastic or a sturdy cardboard box?  And there are other materials that can protect from moisture; I once received a clothing item in a cardboard envelope that, instead of being stuffed with bubble-wrap, was stuffed with paper pulp.

And the reason of moisture anyway… how many times have you received a package drenched in water?  Or even damp?  Delivery companies take care to avoid such things, and if a customer complained about it – would it not be the fault of the delivery company?  Also, if the package is coming from the same province and only has to travel 6-12 hours to get to you… how likely is it that the parcel will become moisture damaged?  Quite unlikely.  It is more likely to have your suitcase drenched at an airport (YES, this has happened to me once!).

What have you encountered?  What have you done to fight against this culture of overpackaged-ness?

On a positive note, I recently ordered linen sheets from Vancouver.  The sheets were contained in a canvas bag within a cardboard box that was the perfect size.  The outside contained very little tape.  So if SHEETS can make their way to you without plastic packaging… I’d say most other cloth material items can too, no?



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