17 Sep 2014

Zero waste

There is no such place as ‘away’. Everything we throw out winds up somewhere. Landfill is not a viable solution, and making things just to bin them is not a sustainable way to run a culture. We need a zero waste economy. There’s a lot we can do as individuals, with the whole reduce-reuse-recycle mantra, but that only works when you have the right materials in the first place. A disturbing number of important foods only seem to come in non-recyclable plastic packaging.

What to do?

Companies give us this stuff because they have convinced themselves it’s what the public wants, needs, expects. So we have to have clingfilm on cucumbers and re-sealable packets, and little plastic windows so that we can see the donuts inside look like every other fried confectionary we’ve ever encountered... it becomes normal so we expect it which justifies the idea that we expect it so they have to provide it.

We have to break that circle. I think we can.

I had a chat with @sainsburys on twitter recently. I’ve also started poking Quorn. I’m looking at companies I buy from and am commenting on how disappointing their packaging is. Doing it in the public domain – twitter and facebook are good – draws attention. I had a lot of support from other social media folk, out of the blue and with nothing organised. If enough of us tell them that recyclable packaging is what we want, they may listen.

We pay for this stuff, twice over. We pay to buy it. Then, we pay for our council to send it to landfill. With cuts eating into essential services, it is not acceptable that we should be spending any public money on burying refuse the supermarkets and others have forced on us. Rice, pasta, seeds, dried fruit – dried, basic, storeable things, are not reliable available in recyclable packaging. This has to change.

So, consider what’s in your bin, and who helped you put it there, and then drop them a polite and friendly line in a public space. ‘I am not happy’ is a good tone to take. At this stage its worth seeing if we can get some co-operation. If there isn’t much movement, petitions can work wonders, and we may have to consider posting clean waste back to the people who created it, explaining that as we can’t recycle it and don’t want to send it to landfill, returning to source seemed like a good idea.

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