Reduce, Reuse and Recycle…. This concept has been drilled into us for years; you see it posted everywhere and companies shout it from their rooftops so we know that they support the proper method of disposal of their products. What they don’t shout out is the fact that a lot of plastic packaging cannot be recycled, including black plastic and that overall only about 9% of all plastic is recycled.
Every year Canada produces about 3 million tonnes of plastic waste, most of which ends up in landfills and approximately 29 000 tonnes ends up in our natural environment. Not to mention the waste that ends up in the oceans as a result of countries shipping their waste elsewhere to be dealt with. And let’s not forget that plastic takes FOREVER to break down, so the majority of plastic ends up breaking into tiny pieces and distributes microplastics into soils and waterways. Did you know that it takes approximately 500 years for an empty toothpaste tube to break down because of the layers and layers of thin plastic that they are made of? The very first toothpaste tubes are still in the landfills that they landed in. Think about how many tubes of toothpaste you go through in a year...that adds up.
A lot of companies have found that it is cheaper to just create new plastics and because of that, they don’t bother with using recycled plastic for their products. And on the other side of that, consumers usually get scared off by the higher cost of purchasing products made from recycled materials so they do not make the investment, or they cannot afford to. So what do we do to fix it? We can scream about recycling plastic until we are blue in the face but at the end of the day, it is way more beneficial to just not have that waste in the first place.
By being conscious of the type of products you are purchasing, and acknowledging the packaging materials that are used for the product, we are able to make more sustainable purchasing decisions. Looking for no packaging or cardboard packaging that can be composted instead of plastic will drastically reduce your waste production. Making informed decisions about the products that you are purchasing and looking for sustainably made, low or zero waste, reusable options is the new goal. Take a look around your house and think of the products in plastic containers that you use daily… toothpaste, shampoo and conditioner, dish soap, and all purpose cleaner. These can all be replaced with sustainable, zero waste options the next time you run out. There are more and more local small businesses that are creating beautiful products with sustainability in mind and would love to help you with your zero waste transition.
And at the end of the day, really think about the product that you are purchasing…. Do you really need it? Being a consumer has a huge responsibility and we can make a big impact or none at all.