Buy concentrated products to reduce packaging

Filed in Reduce by on January 14, 2010 17 Comments
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buying concentrated products saves packagingI remember when I was a kid, the huge boxes of washing powder my Mother used to buy. They had a plastic handle and weighed loads; I don’t think I could lift them when I was little and there wasn’t any other choice – every brand had a huge box! There was a plastic measuring cup inside and heaps of that blue speckled powder went into the machine each time a load of laundry was washed.

I think the biggest size you can buy in most supermarkets now is just over 4kg and that lasts for 50 washes!

With laundry liquids I’m amazed to see how little we need nowadays; just a small cap full in most cases.

Things have come on a long way since I was a child sitting on that huge box of washing powder and I remember when concentrated products came onto the market. There were concentrated fabric conditioners, washing up liquid, laundry powders and laundry liquids which I never quite believed could work.

Now you can buy concentrated fruit juice too, which is great because you are not paying to transport water so it helps reduce emission costs and packaging. We buy a 400ml glass bottle of fruit juice concentrate which seems to last for months; you just keep diluting it and it never seems to go down! Squash was something else I remember getting through a lot of as a child – it started off pretty weak, so we got through a lot. Tesco now sell ‘double concentrate’ squash and are calling on the drinks industry to follow the laundry sector’s example and work together in moving to concentrates where possible and making the best use of packaging.

This week while browsing, I’ve seen concentrated Jeyes fluid, vitamin and mineral supplements, tomato puree and chicken stock! As long as you remember to actually REDUCE the amount of product you use, buying concentrated forms of products is a great way to save packaging.

What concentrated products have you bought recently?

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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 (17)

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  1. I buy the concentrated squash, as with having the boys we get through gallons of the stuff.

  2. Ben says:

    The most concentrated products are probably dried ones. I bought a packet of dried ice tea concentrate last summer, which is still half full despite having made many jugs of ice tea. Sadly the plastic film packet can’t be recycled, but compared to all the plastic bottles I’d have consumed if I bought bottled ice tea, it seems quite small, perhaps even less mass than the non-recyclable caps I’d have ended up with anyway.

    I’ve also stopped buying canned beans and brought packets of dried ones, they need overnight soaking, but it’s amazing just how much you can get from one small packet. Fortunately, these packets say they can go in the plastic bag recycling at the supermarket. I’ve avoided a lot of cans and saved some money too.

    We used to buy fruit juice concentrate (way back in the early 90s), but that’s hard to find now. It’s a really obvious product to save packaging too, because almost all the fruit juice in cartons was condensed, shipped to the uk then the water put back in, so it works just as well if the end user does it at home with tap water. Saves on packaging, transport, energy intensive shop space, makes our groceries lighter, and it lasts longer in concentrate so might help reduce food waste too.

  3. Mrs Green says:

    @maisie dalziel: I find the concentrated juice to be great for making into squash.

    @Ben: how was the tea – did it taste good? Iced tea isn’t something that we drink. Good idea on the dried beans; you save heaps of money on the product; but what about the cooking time – how do you think the fuel compares cost wise? I guess you could cook up a batch and freeze them? I notice in Sainsburys the packaging from dried beans and pulses can be recycled with the carrier bags.

  4. Jane says:

    But are you using less? A half full bottle gets used with more care! Answer: don’t replace with a full bottle. Dad was convinced we used just as much concentrate and certainly more than necessary and would make the whole in the bottle smaller by stuffing a toothpick in it. Really irritating but it did make us think.

    A clearout unearthed a couple old washing up liquid bottles put aside tor making rockets or some such Blue Peter type project. They now look enormous compared to the new ones for sale.

  5. Ben says:

    @Mrs Green: Hi Mrs Green, I completely missed your reply and questions when they were first posted! The ice tea tastes very good and is easy to make. As for dried beans and the cost of fuel, they generally need boiling for ten minutes and simmering for about another 30. I have a gas cooker which is cheap to use. I can’t calculate the exact cost as I don’t know what the gas use is on the low burner setting for simmering, but even if I used the full 1.8 kW output for the full 50 minutes (extra ten assumed for heating to boiling), this huge over-estimate would cost about 3.8p. I normally cook the equivalent of two cans at once. It’s certainly financially reasonable, and the packaging savings are very good too.

  6. Mrs Green says:

    @Jane: Hi Jane, good point. I have to say, even when I top up our washing up liquid from a large 5 litre container I tend to put in half product and half water, so I really water it down – much to Mr G’s annoyance 😉
    @Ben: Great stuff; thanks for sharing Ben 🙂

  7. Jane says:

    @Mrs Green: I get moaned at for doing that too!

  8. Jane says:

    Try tipping up – DON’T SQUEEZE with the washing up liquid!

  9. Menno says:

    I understand the ‘don’t transport water and save fuel’ part of the idea, but has anyone ever looked into the amount of energy that’s needed to concentrate some products?

  10. Mrs Green says:

    @Menno: Hello Menno, I have not looked into this particular issue, but I’m sure it adds to the overall carbon footprint – these are details as consumers that we are not aware of I guess and until labelling laws change we probably will never know.

  11. Antonio Pachowko says:

    Mrs Green you don’t need to know what you can calculate as the relevant data is widely available. This is where My Chemical Engineering background comes in handy

    Let take water as an example. How much energy is required to evaporate one kilogramme of water at 15 degree Celsuis (ambient temperature)?

    Energy required to evaporate 1 kg= Sensible heating of water from 15 deg C to 100 Deg C (I will assume it is under normal atmospheric pressure and no vacuum is present that will reduce energy consumption + latent heat of vaporistion (energy required to convert 1kg of liquid water to 1 kg of Vapor)

    Energy required to evaporate 1 kg= Mass of water*specific heat capacity of water* temperature rise + latent heat of vaporistion

    Energy required to evaporate 1 kg= 1*4.186*(100-15)+ 2257
    = 355.81+2257= 2612.81 kJ

    Not all heat will be transferred from the heating source to the water and if we assume a coil efficiency of 85% will result in an energy requirement of 2612.81/0.85= 3073.89 kJ

    If we assume Octane as a means of representing the combustion of petrol then we find that (3073.89/5293.9) =0.5806 moles of octane is required. There are 114.23 grammes per mole and therefore 0.5806*114.23= 66.32 grammes of Octane is required. The density of octane is 0.703g/ml and therefore the volume of octane required to evaporate 1kg is 66.32/0.703= 94.34 mL or in other words 1 litre of octane (petrol) can evaporate 10.6 kg of water aproximately or 94.3 litres of petrol is required to evaporate 1 tonne of water, hardly energy consuming compared to transport is it?

  12. Mrs Green says:

    @Antonio Pachowko: Ahhh, our resident chemical engineer; thanks for this Antonio. If only I’d paid more attention in my science classes at school 😉 I hope Menno finds your answer helpful too.

  13. Teresa says:

    I buy Ecover washing up liquid which is fairly concentrated so I remember to use less. Two or three short squirts is enough for a bowl of warm water and it doesn’t produce much lather but does the job. However I have to train visitors not to use much as they are used to buying cheap supermarket own brand washing up liquid. Either that or refuse to let the do the washing up when they visit.

  14. Jane says:

    Soap tablets are packaged in twos. I am using one at a time and it is working well.

  15. Mrs Green says:

    @Teresa: That’s the product we use as well, Teressa; I water it down in the bottle to avoid over use 😉

    @Jane: Is that for the washing machine or dishwasher Jane? I tend to experiment with laundry products and keep reducing the amount until I reach the point where it still does the job but any less wouldn’t. Water softness needs to be taken into account; i’m sure with soft water you hardly need any detergent at all.

  16. Jane says:

    @Mrs Green: – with the washing machine. You can even do washes where you forget to put any detergent in at all and it comes out clean! It tends to smell too strongly anyway of perfume. I’m sure we wash our clothes far too often considering we also wash ourselves so often nowadays!

  17. Mrs Green says:

    @Jane: Hi Jane, I HAVE found the occassional wash without detergent is ok, but that’s only for things that need freshening up. I think the clothes retains so much detergent from the last wash that it gets activated again. I am very sensitive to smells and can’t stand walking outside in the summer and smelling my neighbours washing powders 🙁

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