I say shop naked, you say packaging…

Filed in Blog by on June 24, 2014 18 Comments
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I’ve been a proponent of naked shopping for a long time.

Take the coconut for example, does it really need to come in plastic?

And what about the pomelo?

Its ok, I’d never heard of it either, until one found me in a supermarket a few years ago

And let us not forget the nation’s favourite fruit – the banana.

Do we really need to peel them, place them on a polystyrene tray before wrapping in clingfilm?

bananas in excess styrofoam - polystyrene packaging and shrink wrap cling film

You see, nature does a pretty fantastic job at creating perfect biodegradable packaging all of her own.

But I’m learning more and more as I travel the recycled road less travelled that some packaging CAN help prevent food waste.

Can packaging be a good thing?

It was on Countryfile I learned that a cucumber will last much longer if shrink wrapped otherwise they dry out quickly.

And raspberries benefit from a rigid punnet otherwise they’d get squashed when you scooped them out of a container, right?

And rice? Well I don’t think even I’d like to carry that home loose!

But not all packaging is created equal.

Non recyclable packaging

There are the annoying plastics that have no recycling information on them and can’t go anywhere other than in the bin.

There are plastics with the code ‘7’ – which means a very unhelpful ‘other’ – which can’t be recycled.

plastic recycling numbers codes

Then there are polystyrene trays that are difficult to process.

And what about all those composite materials – crisp packets, juice pouches and confectionery packaging?

Off with its head, I say.

Oh but then I find I contradict myself, because not even all composite packaging is bad!


Composite packaging

Last month I wrote about buying wine in Tetra Pak cartons and shared nine reasons why you might consider making the switch.

And the more I look into it, the more I’m becoming convinced that when carefully thought out, good packaging can be of benefit to both the environment and the householder.

Whereas many businesses make packaging with little other than the bottom line in mind, Tetra Pak goes that extra mile.

Their cartons have seven layers; which sounds a bit shocking at first, but I’ve learned that around 70% of that weight is paper board.

Not any old paperboard either.

FSC certified

Over 75% of the cartons sold in the UK and Ireland are made from FSC certified paperboard.

I’m sure you’ve all seen FSC branded about on products, but have you ever looked into what it means?

fsc logo

The acronym stands for the Forest Stewardship Council (www.fsc.org) which is an organisation dedicated to promoting responsible management of the world’s forests. When you see the FSC logo, you can be confident that your purchase benefits the world’s forests. What’s not to love?

And in September, just after you’ve recovered from your Zero Waste Week celebrations there’s FSC Friday to enjoy; an annual celebration of the world’s forests and aims to highlight the importance of responsible forest management!

But back to Tetra Paks…

Renewable packaging

The other 25% of the cartons are made up of aluminium and polyethylene. Like me, Tetra Pak recognise that in an ideal world we would use only natural, renewable raw materials in their packages. They’re currently on a mission to develop new technologies which will make this possible. They’re already making some of the caps from a renewable plastic made from sugar cane. And while they’re working on that they have the lofty goal of ensuring 100% of local authorities in the UK have recycling facilities for cartons; either from the kerbside or local bring banks.

So when it comes to buying orange juice or long life milk I don’t think I’ll be buying those in my reusable containers any time soon. But with a Tetra Pak recycling facility a few miles from my house they are simple for me to recycle locally, so I’ll continue to support buying in cartons.

I’d love to hear your thoughts  – Do Tetra Pak cartons get a yay or nay from you?

If you buy them, click on the image below to discover your nearest Recycling facility:

tetra pak recycling interactive map locator

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 (18)

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  1. Anthony Orenstein says:

    I have never heard of Tetra Pak packaging, but it sound like a good idea. Here in the States, everything is over packaged, with cellophane being one of the most prevalent substances used. Some items will actually come wrapped in two and three layers of cellophane (in addition to the external carton, which may be plastic or paper or both. Cellophane is non-recyclable as far as I know, so therefore it either ends up in an incinerator or a landfill, both of which are highly polluting to the environment.

    • Mrs Green says:

      Cellophane is a challenge because the original cellophane IS recyclable – you can compost it at home as it’s made from plant cellulose. However, most modern cellophane is plastic which can’t be recycled… And how do you tell the difference? Well I haven’t figured out the answer to that 😉

  2. Sheila says:

    I couldn’t believe my eyes when I saw those bananas. Where on earth were they selling those?

    • Anthony Orenstein says:

      It looks like the plastics industry has been doing some kind of heavy-duty marketing! I have never seen anything like that, either!!

  3. Philippa says:

    It is interesting marketing though isn’t it? I thought they were sausages at first. Thinking about it I realised that if I want bananas I look for them by colour!

    • Anthony Orenstein says:

      This excess packaging also makes a product more expensive. Buying garbage, in other words.

      • Mrs Green says:

        I think I learned from Annie Leonard, that around 15% if the product price is the packaging …

    • Mrs Green says:

      Sausages LOL! I hear you – I tend to look for yellow when buying bananas too!

      • Philippa says:

        Yes, that packaging together with the extra single-use bags that we will need to take it all home is marketed to us as “free”. The cost is of course factored in somewhere.and it is us who really are doing free advertising for the shops by carrying the bags. Why otherwise would they be so distinctive?

  4. All good reasons to go to your local grocer where fruit and veg are put in paper bags! I do wish there was more paper/card packaging though – fruit punnets used to be made of card, but now they are all plastic. My current mission is to find plastic-free sunflower and pumpkin seeds… still looking

    • Mrs Green says:

      I know it’s not an ‘instant’ solution but could you grow your own next year? Just one pumpkin and one large sunflower will keep you going for a while…

      That’s been my solution 😉

      The other option to reduce, but not eliminate, plastic is to buy from a food co-op like Suma. Lots of their bulk buy foods come in thick polythene which is great to reuse or can be recycled in *some* supermarkets with the carrier bags.

  5. iraorenstein says:

    If you buy vegetables at a local farmers’ market, as I do when I can, no plastics are used. Not only that, their produce is always fresh.

    • Mrs Green says:

      The perfect solution with fresher produce that tastes great. Often cheaper too because you can buy just the amount you want 🙂

  6. Philippa says:

    I can recycle all my rigid plastic containers – although how much is actually recycled and how much is used as feedstock for an incinerator I don’t know. (And I do prefer no or as little plastic as possible) BUT it is the film that is driving me demented.

    I have a litter bin filled with bags – some of which are recyclable and some of which aren’t; some of which say they are recyclable and some of which don’t; some supermarkets are better than others. I must send something back.

    And When When When will the supermarkets say that we can put bags other than their blessed carriers (which we don’t use) in their carrier bag recycling bins.

    Please can somebody provide them with the necessary stickers – or do we have to do that ourselves!

  7. What you say about plastics ending up in incinerators is interesting because I understand that certain plastics give off toxic fumes when burned.

  8. And just to add one little comment here: what do we DO with the tremendous amount of garbage that we are forced to bring into our homes every time we buy consumer goods?? First we PAY to get it, then we have to PAY to get rid of it if we live in an area which has a pay-as-you-throw garbage removal system! If anything is double-dipping, this is it!!!

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