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Green challenges

Thinking global and acting local, Julie Grundy takes on any challenge we throw at her.

Recycling message not getting through

PET bottles in trashcan

Credit: Henya, Wikimedia Commons

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How are you going with your nude food challenge? I'm making plans for my second day, and I'm becoming more aware of just how much packaging we surround ourselves with.

We're pretty good about recycling at my house, and we're lucky to have one of the big wheelie bins collected fortnightly instead of those old, too-small black bucket things. But even though we carefully clean out jars and check numbers on plastics, it's still less efficient to recycle glass, paper and plastic than it is to just never use it in the first place.

And most people don't really do their recycling properly anyway - with 743,000 tonnes of drink containers in our landfill each year, you just know that the message isn't getting through. The lovely people at Clean Up Australia have more information based on their annual litter pick-up. Their 2008 report showed that 8 out of the Top 10 items collected were to do with packaging. Number one was cigarette butts, but the remaining top items were:

  • glass alcoholic beverage containers
  • plastic chip and confectionery bags
  • plastic bottle caps and lids, and
  • PET drink containers

After that, it's all paper and glass and other types of plastic. The majority of what the teams collect is recyclable.

Maybe I'm just slack, but it seems to me that it's easier to deal with glass, paper and plastics if we don't use so much of it in the first place. I don't actually enjoy sorting out the recycling *that* much. All this packaging makes recycling more fiddly to sort out, and if it's not recycled properly it ends up in landfill or blowing around the countryside, getting into our waterways.

So I'm keen to use my consumer power to choose items with less packaging, and avoid the triple-wrapped stuff. And surely it's less expensive for the manufacturer to use less packaging too? Why do they insist on over-doing it?