Not everything can save you from guilt, some products are pure sin.
Sometimes going zero waste becomes a challenge for a common householder. For example, recently I ordered a zero waste soap bar online that seemed to be in a paper packaging. But, when I received the package it was a small cardboard box with some bubble wrap which had soap inside in a laminated paper cover. Forget all the shipping emmissions, this shopping choice was the worst I could do to save the planet. Distance Packaging stuff such as Thermocol boxes, bubble wraps, single use plastic bags etc come under the category of non-recyclables. In simple words this category of stuffs makes straight way to the landfill.
Minimize distance shopping, go local!
In the world of waste, packaging is a close kin to the travel distance. Just because something is delivered at your doorstep doesn't mean that it was fetched outside your house. From food to footwear, the distance traveled by the product determined how big a carbon footprint it will leave.
Local and seasonal food choices have immense health benefits as well. There is more nutrition sealed in a locally picked bottle-gourd than far fetched Avocado that has travelled a hundred miles in a plastic clingfilm to dress up your platter.
Viscous cycle of polystyrene
Polystyrene foam or Thermocol is a common packaging material used in transportation of fragile products and electronics. It is feather light, provides great cushion and is cheap to produce, which makes it the best choice for shipping fragile stuff. Unfortunately all these features come with an immense cost to the environment. Thermocol is 95% air, and for the rest 5% recycling cost is higher than manufacturing. Therefore, due to the high volume it occupies it is difficult to transport and adds a great volume even in the landfills. For these reasons it is mostly burnt; the process releases toxic gases.Although innovations have been proposed to compress styrene into transportable volumes, still recycling it thereafter is not economically or ecologically viable.
Bubble wrap and single use plastics
All this stuff is theoretically recyclable i.e. they can be specially recycled but, mostly they are not. When it comes to waste management, keeping things simple is important. I can go guilt free in my head after dropping a single use plastic into a recycle bin. But the fact it that most of the thin film plastic is very difficult to recycle and hence is finally dropped off into a landfill. Most importantly, these light weight products are difficult to manage and are easily blown away into water drains and oceans. They are extremely hazardous to the livestock if ingested this way they also enter the food chain rendering animal products toxic to consumption.
The myth of biodegradable plastics
I got a pack of biodegradable garbage bags a while ago. We keep this as an emergency resort to dispose off hazardous waste. Somewhere I was making a fool of myself by paying a hefty price for this stuff that claims to be oxo-degradable or photo-degradable as all this stuff is degradable under highly specific conditions that are often not met. Above all, most photo-degradable plastics tend to break down into small particles of plastic rather than decomposing completely.
The idea is that these small pieces will then biodegrade. Unfortunately the smaller pieces easily make their way into water or food chain before they could get degraded.
So far we are clear on the fact that plastic is not degradable. The only way to handle plastic is to recycle it or the best that we can do on our part is to abandon it.
The enormous burden of non- recyclables is taking a big toll on our planet. Our oceans are tuning into a plastic soup of such products. We continuously try to make efforts to figure out different ways to use less plastic and efficiently dispose the recyclable ones.We welcome any suggestion or updates in this article or in the use of non recyclables.Share your valuable comments and suggestions in the comment box below.