Monday, January 2, 2012

Some Post-Holiday Thoughts on Packaging Waste

During this holiday season I took on the usual role of family garbage person. Perhaps you too have been that designated party at one time or another - standing there, holding a bag...waiting...until the very second a present is opened...then knocking your nieces and nephews over to catch the torn paper from their recently opened presents before it can even hit the floor. Well, as usual I am always shocked at the amount of paper used to hide gifts from one another until the big day of exchange. Below are a few of many great stats from Mother Jones on the subject [and as for clam-shell packaging sending people to the ER? Been there, done that - sliced my finger open and needed 8 stitches a few years ago. So changing course on packaging is not only about protecting the environment, but also about health and safety - at least for me ;-)]:

  • Nearly 10% of a typical product's price is for packaging.
  • The global packaging market is worth $429 billion.
  • Nearly 1/3 of Americans' waste is packaging. Just 43% is recycled after use.
  • In 2007, Americans threw away 78.5 million tons of packaging—520 pounds per person. That's a 71% increase from 1960.
  • A 2008 bill written by Rep. Anthony Weiner (D-N.Y.) would have required the EPA to find ways to reduce packaging waste by 30% in a decade. It died with no cosponsors.
  • Last summer, Sam's Club began selling milk in a stackable plastic jug with a smaller energy footprint. It cut the price of a gallon by as much as 20 cents, but consumers complained that it spilled too easily.
  • Between Thanksgiving and New Year's, Americans produce more than 1 million tons of additional garbage per week.
  • If every family reused the wrapping from 3 gifts, it would save enough paper to cover 50,000 football fields.
  • To fight shoplifting, which costs retailers more than $11 billion a year, clamshell packages are designed so that "human hands have great difficulty separating the backing and cover," according to a 2003 patent.
  • Even armed with scissors and a box cutter, it took Consumer Reports testers more than 3 minutes to cut open the Oral-B Sonic Complete Toothbrush Kit.
  • Last year, clamshell-type packages sent more than 5,700 Americans to the ER.
  • In May 2008, Sony announced "Death to the Clamshell" with a video of a man getting impaled by a package of headphones.
  • Sony's Memory Stick Pro Duo comes in a package that's 50 times larger than the product itself.
  • Pentagon researchers say that by converting packaging waste into fuel, military units could become energy self-sufficient.
  • More than 80% of kids surveyed said they preferred plastic milk bottles to paper cartons. They saw milk in plastic as "cool" and "fun to drink." Paper was "old-fashioned."
  • Americans annually buy enough plastic wrap to cover Texas.
  • The USDA has developed edible food wrap. Says a researcher, "Imagine apple-film-wrapped pork chops that go from the refrigerator to the stove, where the film melts into an apple glaze."
  • Presliced and wrapped fruits and vegetables cost up to 45% more than whole, unwrapped ones.
  • Sales of Patagonia underwear jumped 30% after it removed the packaging.

- Blake Hudson

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Did I just read it right? The global packaging market is worth $429 billion?? That's a bunch of bucks!

Posted by: environmental waste | Jan 30, 2012 4:14:02 PM

All these data points are interesting. It would also be interesting to see how Mother Jones gathered these data. the list is a bit one-sided, and doesn't take into account the benefits of packaging, such as the fact that food waste would likely be 40 percent higher if proper packaging weren't use. That's something we can ill-afford today given the global population's needs.

Posted by: John Kalkowski | Jan 3, 2012 7:37:18 AM

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