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Behind The Cage

Thursday, 7 December 2017 | MYT 12:00 AM

Rethinking packaging

IN my effort to grab a new box of facial tissues from my room, amid sniffles and sneezes, I couldn’t help but notice the amount of packaging I had to go through to get to my precious load of tissues.

In my swollen-eyed, teary state, I was struggling to open the annoying plastic packaging that bundled a twinpack of tissue boxes.

“Success,” I thought, after tearing two plastic outer layers away.

But that was not the end. I had to tear off the cardboard opening and stuff my hand in to get to the tissues I needed.

In my flu-induced state, the amount of packaging annoyed me, and it got me to think about all the other unnecessary packaging consumers are presented with.

As I stroll down the aisles at a supermarket, I can’t help but notice how every single product is nicely packaged for you to grab and take home in a jiffy.

But upon closer inspection and reflection, product packaging is not always convenient or useful.

I see sealed cardboard boxes wrapped in another layer of plastic.

I see bundled products taped together with plastic tape (which is not recyclable) or layered in another plastic wrapper.

To be honest, I find this additional packaging extremely wasteful and annoying.

I don’t need my fruit or vegetables to be cling wrapped or packaged in a plastic bag!

My frustration with excessive packaging was relived recently when I received a package containing a bag I ordered online.

Not only did the bag itself come in a plastic package, there were two other layers of plastic that covered the bag – making the amount of plastic packaging for one small bag add up to three layers! That’s not even counting all the sticky tape and glue that was on the plastic.

I know that I am not alone in my annoyance. A few months back, a reader e-mailed me and shared his frustration on the non-environmentally friendly delivery packaging.

Many delivery items come laden in polystyrene pellets, wrapped in copious amounts of bubble wrap or wrapped in layers of plastic.

Admittedly, I do see why these protective methods are used for products – to protect them.

But most companies still don’t realise the damage discarded packaging has on the environment.

Most of the pellets, bubble wrap, packing tape and clear wrapping are made of plastic.

Plastic does not biodegrade, and these items are not recyclable.

Instead, they end up in our waste and are sent to the landfill to pile up.

Thankfully, some companies have realised our global waste problem.

These companies are awakening to the importance of sustainable and eco-friendly product packaging.

During a recent trip to New Zealand, I saw many supermarket products with more eco-friendly recycled paper packaging.

Fruits and vegetables are sold loose, and are weighed at the payment counter. So consumers have the choice of not using a plastic or paper bag for their products, plus they don’t print the price tag to stick on the bag.

I saw food trucks use plates made from potato pulp, lids of coffee cups made from eco-friendly material rather than plastic, and ethically sourced paper packaging for takeaway bags and coffee cups.

There are several companies out there also offering eco-friendly delivery packaging options made from plant-based packing pellets, recycled plastic or paper.

I hope to see Malaysian companies grow to realise that it is in their interest to reduce packaging or eliminate it all together.

Not only will it help them save cost and the environment, it will also elevate their reputation of being eco-friendly.

As a consumer, I would like to choose products and services that are more environmentally sustainable.

It disturbs me to realise just how much waste I am producing as a single person.

Did you know that on average, each Malaysian produces 0.8kg of waste every single day?

That adds up to you producing 292kg of waste annually – and that’s just one person!

I think it is time for us to reflect on the way we are consuming products, and make small changes to reduce our waste.

Personally, I will be taking steps to cut down my waste by refusing plastic bags, and shopping at more markets and bulk food stores.

If we all take steps to reduce our waste, we can make a difference.

Online reporter Victoria Brown’s Behind The Cage tackles the pressing issues of animal rights and environmental awareness. She can be reached at victoria@thestar.com.my.