Posts filed under ‘Planet-friendly packaging’

Another cure for disposable coffee cups


doublewalledbottle_Zoom I’ve long been a fan of Bodum’s double-walled glassware. Foregoing ceramic mugs, my partner and I have a cupboard crammed with elegant double-walled glasses in a few shapes and sizes. Why? They keep things hot, they keep things cold, they don’t require coasters as there’s no condensation. And they look nice. I would also say that glass is an environmentally friendly material, being recyclable and free of hazardous chemicals.

Recently a friend sent me a fab gift: this double-walled glass bottle made by Anchor. It’s just what I’ve been looking for, like my Bodum glasses, but for on the go! Large enough for a big latté and versatile enough to carry any kind of hot or cold beverage, the lid has a silicone closure. I’m not sure what kind of plastic the rest of the top is made with, but it feels like (BPA-free) polypropylene. I’ll write to Anchor and see if I can find out for sure. The website says that most of their products are still made in the US, in Columbus, Ohio.

I’ve noticed that many coffee shops have in-store ads suggesting that their patrons bring their own drinkware. Even Starbucks, maker of the iconic white cup, has posters in their stores, though they report that only 1.3 per cent of their customers bring their own mugs. So that’s the trick. We have some great options for coffee on the go, we just have to remember to bring our mugs, jugs, bottles and cups. You know, in our reuseable bags!

August 27, 2009 at 11:05 AM 1 comment

Great documentary: Addicted to Plastic

plasticsonbeachI had a chance to watch the documentary Addicted to Plastic over the weekend. Although I had heard about the areas of the ocean that tend to accumulate plastic, it was fascinating (and scary) to see just how much plastic was in the area of the Pacific shown in the film (especially compared to the relatively insignificant amount of plankton in the same area). It was scary to see just how much plastics have infiltrated our food chain — the film shows a dissections of dead gulls from a beach in Holland; their stomachs are loaded with bits of plastics, and shows how toxins from plastics make their way into the fish we eat.

I appreciated that the film doesn’t lay blame on society for becoming reliant on plastics, showing that we just got caught up in its convenience without seeing the looming issues down the road. It seems that if we can contain plastics, largely by avoiding convenience plastics and reusing as much of the material as we can for new things, we’ll really reduce the severity of the plastics pollution problem. Beyond that, Addicted to Plastic shows many case studies of people who are doing a terrific job of recycling plastic into new goods (such as Interface carpets), or creating plastics from plant material such as corn.

My bet: We’ll be mining old landfills for plastics, metals and other valuable materials within 15 years.

Do you think you could live without plastic?

June 15, 2009 at 2:07 PM 3 comments

What doesn’t fit in the recycling bin

recyclingbinWhen I lived in Guelph, Ont. a few years ago, I enjoyed using a garbage system that seemed rather enlightened. They’ve since shut the system down due to the cost of operating it, I believe, but here’s how it worked. You bought two types of bags: big blue bags for “dry” garbage and small green bags for “wet” garbage. Dry was recyclables and wet was compostables. There were no black bags. The city would not take them. But they would take your wet bags and dry bags, and they provided a lot of employment for the people who, along with a bunch of machinery, would sift through the dry things, sorting recyclables and setting aside items for donation. I know that, at the end of the assembly line, there was still garbage. But it seemed like a thorough approach to waste diversion, and it was pretty easy on the citizen side of things.

Every city, town and hamlet has its own way of handling recyclables, and the rules about what can be recycled seem to change a lot. In the city of Toronto, where I live, I had the idea that we could recycle most everything. But I’m realizing that “everything” has a big asterisk next to it. The Toronto Star’s Trash Talk column sorts out recycling issues; writer Ellen Moorehouse recently reported that recyclers have trouble with containers that have a lid attached that’s made from a different material, so now I’m unscrewing metal lids from glass jars, plastic lids from juice cartons.

A few other surprises regarding what doesn’t belong in Toronto recycling bins:
– Paper bags with linings intended to keep food fresh, such as cookie bags
– Plastic plant pots. Some garden centres will take these back; according to this Star article, Loblaw even offers some financial incentives: If you bring in 25 plastic containers, you get a $5 coupon you can use toward the purchase of $50 or more in garden products.
– Plastic shopping bags can go in, as long as they don’t have drawstrings or metal handles (although you can cut these off). But milk bags, sandwich bags, bread bags, produce bags and dry cleaning bags don’t belong in your blue bin.
– Clear clamshell containers used to hold fruits and veggies. This one really surprised me because these have a recycling number on the bottom. I know some farmers will take these to put their fresh produce in, and my organic food delivery service will take these back.
– Paper coffee cups. Think of how many of these are purchased each day! I assume they can’t be recycled because of the wax lining on the inside.

Does your municipality recycle any of these items? Have you had any surprises about what you can’t recycle?

May 25, 2009 at 10:59 AM Leave a comment

Weigh in on packaging waste

Too much packaging?

Too much packaging?

I was more than a bit surprised today to hear that WalMart Canada is inviting Canadians to submit reports of excess or inappropriate packaging. What would one of the world’s most powerful retail chains want with this information? They plan to turn it over to the manufacturers as part of their efforts to reduce waste. What kind of effect could this have? I don’t know, but one thing I do know is if WalMart demands change from manufacturers, they’ll probably get what they want. So if WalMart wants less packaging, if they want it to be more recyclable, considering the volume of stuff they sell in their 312 stores, that’s going to have a pretty big impact on the waste stream in Canada, not to mention the greenhouse gas output.

In a release, WalMart Canada stated, “It is estimated that just 8 per cent of the environmental impact of Walmart’s business is directly tied to its business operations, and that the remaining 92 per cent relates to products, including packaging. To support its waste reduction goals, Walmart Canada is introducing a packaging scorecard to assess suppliers based on their packaging, including the quantity and qualities of materials used. Scorecard results will play a role in the company’s decision to stock products going forward.

Any maybe, if Canadians tell manufacturers that they can buy their software or their potato chips or their action figures without the box and the foam and the plastic, manufacturers just might see the opportunity to save a lot of money (not just on the packaging materials, but on the shipping as well) and give light packaging a try. 

What kinds of packaging could you live without?

May 7, 2009 at 10:19 AM 2 comments

My new takeout food packaging: Japanese Doggy Bag

Doggy Bag package

Doggy Bag package

How to use the Doggy Bag

How to use the Doggy Bag

doggybag I’m the lucky recipient of these reuseable takeout food boxes! A friend is home from Japan for a few weeks, and she brought me this neat set of fold-up meal boxes. I love the pictograms advising me of how to use them! (Assembling a box was more difficult, but I’m sure practice makes perfect.) I can’t wait to try these out. They’re plastic, but look like they’ll hold up to a lot of handwashings. This should help me with my takeout food conundrum.

This was a great gift! Have you received or given anything that you think reduces waste in some way?

April 30, 2009 at 9:35 AM 4 comments

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