Reduce, reuse, recycle. You’ve heard the mantra many times before. Most people do these things, although I think we always have room for improvement in each of those activities. And of course, we can add upcycling (converting used items to things that still serve a purpose rather than simply throwing them away) and precycling (making purchase decisions that help to minimize waste later on) to the list of ways to help our environment by minimizing waste. Conservation is important to help curb our emissions because it ultimately means less waste, less landfill, and less manufacturing.
For some items, composting is the best way to go. Obviously we can compost our food waste, whether that be in a municipal composting program or in our own backyards. But one thing where composting is slowly gaining some ground is with packaging itself.
In my book “Comprehending the Climate Crisis,” I discuss an example of a biodegradable bag made by Frito Lay for their Sun Chips line. From Chapter 6:
These would degrade naturally over a couple of weeks, unlike plastic bags that last for years in landfill sites. Unfortunately, sales started to drop because the bags were noisier (which I think is an odd complaint since potato chips are already pretty loud as far as foods go). The company was forced to switch back to the plastic bags for most of its product line in the Unites States, where research continues for a quieter version.
Interestingly, in Canada, Frito Lay has taken a different stand and continues to use the noisier but greener version. They’ve even used it as a marketing gimmick, encouraging their customers to send away for their SunChips ear plugs and asking them to write down why they’re happy to make some noise for the environment.
I think biodegradable compostable packaging is brilliant. I truly believe we should support companies that go this extra step toward helping the environment.
This week I stumbled across yet another example. My kids love gum, as I think most kids do. This week they picked up some Dentyne Fire, a favourite of theirs. (They love cinnamon-flavoured gums.) What struck me most was the packaging. The bottle it came in is called an earth pack. It looks similar to the material that egg cartons are made of. And once you’ve finished the gum, all you have to do is remove the label and it can be thrown into the compost. Even the label is plant-based, according to the packaging, so they’ve left no environmental stone unturned. In addition to Dentyne, Trident and Clorets are using the same type of compostable bottle (all owned by Kraft). It takes about 45 days to decompose in an industrial compost facility, and a little longer in your backyard compost.
Wherever packaging can be changed so as to minimize impact on the environment and on our emissions, I believe companies should do so. And whenever we can purchase goods that come in compostable packaging, we as consumers should do so.
I give credit to these companies for taking this step. It makes our family that much more inclined to buy their gum the next time we’re at the checkout counter. I only look forward to the day when compostable packaging will be the norm rather than the exception.