Conservation Comment: Avoid unnecessary packaging

By Graham Pearson

Cheaper: Sadly, it costs less to use styrofoam and plastic than to employ staff to wash up. Photo/file
Cheaper: Sadly, it costs less to use styrofoam and plastic than to employ staff to wash up. Photo/file

Recently I had great fun actually buying something without packaging, it felt so good, just like the "good old days". I have discovered a plumbing supplier in Whanganui who still has their parts in open wooden bins.

I could actually touch and feel the metal of my garden tap. I could easily check the new tap would fit on the fitting I had brought along!

But wait; it gets even better. The salesperson did not need a barcode. She actually knew their products and could price it for me just by looking at the tap.

At home I did not need to hunt up sharp scissors or a Stanley knife or sharpen up my penknife so I could do battle with that fiendish tough plastic that so often cuts my hand as I remove products. I could just get straight on with the job in hand.

I'm looking forward to going back to buy something else from that supplier.

We have lovely cloth shopping bags in our car, plus a few "pop-out" ones with us when shopping, so plastic shopping bags are not needed. It is great to discover more and more stores and shops we deal with have changed to paper bags, so we support them as much as possible. Plus all shops now let us put our purchases straight into our cloth bags

Three other "good experiences" recently have been opening up boxed purchases to discover no polystyrene packaging. That is so great as polystyrene is a major environmental hazard and should have been banned years ago. Few recycling facilities can take this product, plus it breaks into small pieces that pollute oceans and waterways world wide. If swallowed it sticks to gut linings and can cause serious blockages and it gives off poisonous gases if burnt.

My purchases were packed in shredded paper or cardboard. The cardboard was perforated like a cheese grater to give it bulk or of egg carton constituency that was moulded to fit around the product. All of this brilliant packaging I could compost or recycle.

This good packaging contrasts with the rubbish we regularly pick up on our walks around local streets and on the beach. Single-use products like chippy packs and lolly papers are now all made with thin plastic, drinking straws are usually plastic too, as are many fast food wrappings. None of these can go in our compost bin. Let's get back to having paper bags. For at least when they are littered around they compost away by themselves.

Our local Saturday River Traders' Market is another good place to shop with minimal packaging. With local products coming directly to market, packaging is minimal and much of the produce can go straight in to your cloth shopping bag or trundler.
What a contrast to supermarkets, where you may find even the humble cucumber individually shrink wrapped.

With Christmas fast arriving, now is the time to think about how you can avoid as much unnecessary packaging as possible. Some ideas include making presents and decorations, donating to charities in the name of a loved one, shared produce and plants from your garden or homemade products. If wrapping is needed, be creative: use children's artwork, spare wallpaper or recycled wrapping.

Pop into Sustainable Whanganui's Re-Use Academy, where for a Koha you can source jars, bottles, plates, mugs, paper and cards, boxes, plant pots etc, all of which can be reused or repurposed. Watch out for SW's upcoming family-based Christmas card making workshop.

Graham Pearson's community involvement includes Progress Castlecliff and Sustainable Whanganui Trust membership.

- Whanganui Chronicle

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