Tuesday, October 19, 2021

‘The problem with ‘reusable’ bags’

If you have ever found yourself excited about using a “reusable” lunchbox, you have to be quick, because such items are in very short supply. But they can’t last forever, and as the quality of disposable packaging diminishes, we wonder whether a better option is gaining popularity. The short answer is yes, but before you can take up production, some technologies have to reach the market first.

Eco brand Reef is encouraging the public to donate or sell used packaging, either because the item is now ruined or no longer needs to be used – it’s all very helpful! But is there really more ecological advantage to “reusing” it?

You can certainly do better by buying an item using reusable packaging, as you will be cutting your greenhouse gas emissions as well as saving money. In other words, there are often advantages to eliminating disposable packaging. But, that said, it is not at all clear that the time and effort saved by using reusable packaging is greater than the environmental gain or loss by using disposable packaging.

Time is an issue. Some designers have acknowledged that reusable packaging is slightly quicker than disposable packaging, but it doesn’t take much notice of this, because the primary goal is to get to the point where conventional packaging is no longer needed.

There’s also the fact that there is a negligible environmental gain from using reusable packaging because paper and cardboard are among the worst offenders when it comes to greenhouse gas emissions – they are responsible for more than 80% of all packaging in industrial countries. So, here we come full circle.

Some consider that when it comes to reducing plastic pollution, the biggest issue is in the production of the waste. Remember how big the crisis started? And one of the main causes was disposable packaging, and throwaway eating habits in general? An additional cost comes to the consumer, the consumer feels bad and feels responsible. Then the message is that using eco packaging is also good for you and you make the company proud because you’re “green”.

Essentially, you spread the word of the environmental benefits of the product to the companies, which provide it. You do not have to own the company to be green! You take action on the products you like.

So why is so much emphasis put on reusable packaging in the first place? Because of the economics, without which the industry fails. Today’s manufacturing system requires millions of tonnes of plastic and paper to make products. So, manufacturers are persuaded to provide plastic and paper wrappers and packaging of various sorts.

Because it’s free, more and more companies go all-in. This is a domino effect – the suppliers, suppliers and the manufacturers, keep on providing. But more and more are becoming aware of the issue and what are they doing about it. The fight is finally on.

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