Sunday, September 17, 2006

Packaging Pet Peeve

I have lived, worked, and recycled in four states in the last ten years. Municipal recycling programs vary widely, depending on the size of the community. The tiny town in northern Minnesota provided a large dumpster, divided into sections for each type of material. The recycling effort in one small town in Michigan was entirely run by volunteers, who manned their drop-off center the first Saturday of every month. The Massachusetts program was also on a drop-off basis, at a local dump. It’s always one of the first things to do when relocating to a new town: find out what facilities recycle in the area, and what sorts of materials are accepted.

My current hometown has a wonderful mandatory curbside pick-up program that takes all sorts of items the smaller facilities cannot process, such as milk cartons and juice boxes. However, when it comes to plastics, the local agency only accepts types 1 & 2. These are the exact same plastics recycled in every community I’ve lived in. Now, I have a rudimentary understanding of supply and demand economics, which leads me to suspect there is not much of an industry demand for plastic types 3-7. But that doesn’t ease the frustration I feel when I realize I’ve inadvertently purchased a product packaged in one of these dreaded materials.

I blacklisted a favorite hair care product years ago when they started packaging the shampoo in type 3 plastic. For a while, I continued to purchase the conditioner, which remained in trusty type 2, but after writing to their customer service online and receiving no satisfactory response, I dropped them altogether. Just recently, I discovered that several store-brand products I purchased are packaged in the wrong plastics: another shampoo in type 3, and parmesan cheese in type 5. Obviously, I will cease and desist in buying these products, and go back to the available name brands which are packaged in truly recyclable materials.

But does that send a strong enough message? I’d rather not discontinue shopping at my favorite grocery store. And I’m sure I would run into similar problems with other store-brand products in other stores. How can I convince the grocery establishment that packaging matters?


Mary Stebbins Taitt said...

Organize a campaign among your friends and family to 1)write letters and 2)stick to our guns about not purchasing. However, you need a LOT more friends and a bigger family to make it work.

Erin said...

I really wish that they would pass the new bottle bill. All beverage bottles should be returnable, not just carbonated ones.

BTW, Woodchucks break that rule because they are clearly carbonated but do not have a deposit.

Unfortunately, I can't remember which product it was that I last threw in the trash and told Mark we could not buy again because it sported a dastardly 3.

Erin said...

Snarkies. I found another non-recycleable item this morning- my shower gel. Crappy cheap Suave products. Don't buy!

Sara said...

I just discovered another one today, too: Tums are packaged in #5. I knew there was a good reason to buy the Rolaids instead.

Mary Stebbins Taitt said...


Tooo much to keep track of.

I wanted to let you know I've been locked out of gmail, perhaps because I had it open on two computers at once. I've done that lost of times before and never gotten locked out,

But I cannot send any emails, or read them or anything and they said it may be 24 hours and I do not have your gmail on my yahoo.