Monsieur Green says NO!

Filed in Blog by on December 19, 2008 11 Comments
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Mr Green buys packing tape without packaging!Today we popped into our local ‘Aladdin’s Cave’, which sells everything from seasonal decorations to bake ware, home DIY stuff, toys, cards; it’s just one of ‘those shops’; if you want it; they’ve probably got it somewhere.

In it we found naked reels of sellotape with a cardboard inner – horrah! We were also after some brown packing tape which we found, in non-recyclable cellophane packaging <sigh>

Mr Green asked me if I still wanted to buy it. Apart from traipsing around other stores my choices were limited, so I reluctantly agreed. Sometimes I don’t care and figure the packaging will just have to go in the bin – I accept it for what it is. At other times I feel really defeated that I do not have a choice and it annoys (and saddens) me.

Mr Green sauntered over to the counter to pay and said to the cashier “Could you take the packaging off please and…………………”

Always eager to please in that shop, she whipped the packing tape out of its coat and:

Threw it in the bin.

Meanwhile, Mr Green was finishing his sentence with “dispose of it responsibly?”

Ah well; he tried. The lady was lovely; most obliging and went on to ask Mr G if he wanted a plastic bag for his purchase.

Hmmmmmm. 10/10 for helpful and friendliness, 0/10 for actually getting the zero waste thing!

You win some, you lose some.

Have you had any surprises in unexpected places with zero waste purchases? I’d love to hear about them!

About the Author ()

I am a long time supporter of the Green and Sustainable lifestyle. After being caught in the Boscastle floods in 2004, our family begun a journey to respect and promote the importance of Earth's fragile ecosystem, that focussed on reducing waste. Inspired by the beauty and resourcefulness of this wonderful planet, I have published numerous magazine articles on green issues and the author of four books.

Comments (11)

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  1. Lauren says:

    Love your blog, but, ummm, what did Mr. Green expect by “dispose of it responsibly?” You said it was non-recyclable. I’m curious: What would have been the responsible disposable method?

  2. Hi Mrs Green,

    Asking staff to remove waste packaging is perfectly valid since ownership of waste is not solely the consumer’s burden. It is not always possible to do this especially during the busy festive season.

    I am resigned to having an increase in waste plastic after this first attempt at Christmas Zero Waste, but will learn from the experience and plan next year’s effort well in advance.

  3. Mrs Green says:

    Hi Lauren, great question – thank you! You really helped me consolidate some of my thoughts as I was figuring out a response to you.

    I would say that firstly, many shops and businesses have access to more recycling than householders. At one place we shop, for example, the staff have access to all mixed plastics recycling. So we thought that perhaps this shop might too have access to mixed plastics recycling.

    If this isn’t the case (which I can only assume to be true, given that the wrapper went into the bin) then maybe the member of staff will remember Mr G’s comment and bring it up in a staff meeting – maybe they;ll discuss the weird couple who asked for responsible disposal of the packaging and start to discuss what that might mean and whether there is anything as a store that they can offer their customers.

    Third, as John points out in his comment, it’s good for consumers to show stores what they do and don’t want. Passing non-recyclable packaging back makes a statement that we do not want this type of packaging, especially when there are suitable alternatives.

    If this shop has to pay to have all their waste taken away then they may start to think ‘hang on a minute; we have xxx customers handing back their packaging and this is costing us money’ this in turn might lead them to going back to the manufacturers and asking for better packaging.

    We know that our individual letter to the manufacturer doesn’t hold much weight; but if a SHOP says to a manufacturer they want better packaging or will stop buying their products, then we might just see action!

    I guess it’s kind of like making a snowball – passing the packaging back is like a few snowflakes in your hand, but if enough of us return our packaging and then the store speak to the manufacturer and changes get made from the manufacturing end; we have ourselves a great big snowball to play with πŸ™‚

  4. Mr. Green says:

    Hi Lauren, well ‘dispose of responsibly’ could mean a number of things for a retailer. It’s not always for recycling. Some retailers have better facilities for packaging disposal, including shredding for reuse, or pelleting for plastic reprocessing. Also, bulk returns of some packaging has some monetary value to the retailer. In addition, different regions can recycle items that others can’t. The way I see it, it’s their duty to to pass the buck back to manufacturers or distributors if they have a problem with it. If a retailer had a significant number of packaging returns per day, they would be sure to pass this comment back to the distributors/ manufacturers and this ‘bulk’ message would likely make a stronger effect, as opposed to lots of individuals.

    Likeiwse, if the retailer had to pay for disposing of the packaging, they would be more likely to moan about this to the suppliers if it was a regular occurrance. Maybe that’s a belligerent approach, but I think we have to get tough sometimes to get the message through.

  5. Mr. Green says:

    Ha! Mrs. Green downstairs posting … me upstairs posting at the same time. Gota laugh !!

  6. Lauren says:

    Thanks for your answers! I realize I think of disposal as landfill or recycle, but there are other methods and considerations I hadn’t thought about. Thanks for pushing my thinking.

  7. ah, upstairs, downstairs? twin minds at work with wasteless harmony.
    wasteless? why does the thesaurus rebel? if one can be wasteful, then, of course, one may be waste-less…
    poetic license oblige, monsieur, madame, and mademoiselle Vert.

  8. Layla says:

    WoW! Really great ideas discussed here…

    I wish all shops became responsible enough to pass the packaging back to manufacturers or dispose of them responsibly.. Some watchdog organisations (or individual consumers) might be necessary in the process…

    I know I live in an ex-communist country, so things may be different over there… More than a decade ago I did some summer work in a shop, and the shop manager’s idea of waste disposal (to avoid waste fees) was burning the lot in the backyard!! So, I’m hoping shops nowadays would be more responsible.. keeping an eye on them would be good, still..

    /at least here, some other businessmen had similar ideas of disposing waste…!! very recently, too!!/

    Great idea as a whole, still!! I do wonder if such watchdog organisations exist.. and which ones they would be..

  9. Mrs Green says:

    Hi lauren, you’re welcome! You too helped me to think around the issue so it was really helpful.

    Nadine, we love your idea of the wasteless lifestyle!

    Hi Layla; maybe something WILL happen along these lines in the future. That can only be a good thing. I guess burning is the ‘quick fix’ answer………
    I’m not sure about watchdog organisations either; perhaps someone else will come along and enlighten us.

  10. Poppy says:

    I’d like to offer 2 and a half cheers (rather than the customary 3) to Russell Hobbs.

    I bought a new iron yesterday (needs must and all that πŸ™ ). The iron was in a cardboard box. The end of the box was packed out with a wedge of cardboard and the iron itself was in a polythene bag. The plug didn’t have one of those silly plastic caps on it πŸ™‚ All good and easily recyclable. πŸ˜€ However, sat on the top of the iron was a lump of polystyrene! Boo hiss! πŸ™

    Why on earth when they had seemingly thought it through so far, did they have to go and spoil it?? πŸ™ πŸ™

  11. Mrs Green says:

    Hi poppy, It’s great to hear of the things some companies are doing. Thank you for sharing here.
    Isn’t it weird how they do so brilliantly and at the last minute add a bit of something silly to their packaging. Ah well, in the words of Meatloaf “two out of three ain’t bad” πŸ™‚

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