When consumer shopping trends change, big corporations use this to their advantage to market their products to suit these needs. But this doesn't always mean what they are claiming is true! In recent years many eco alternatives have hit the shelves but many of these brands are in infact greenwashing their products, which have little to no environmental benefit.
Product after product on supermarket shelves claim to be good for the environment, but are they? And what do these things mean? Are they any different to any other regular product on the shelf? And what are these corporations hiding, behind these fancy green, eco looking labels? Do these companies actually care about their environmental impacts? Having one "eco" product on the shelf next to their many other harmful products so they can have every piece of the pie and gain market share across all.
Sometimes we don't have better choices. Sometimes plastic is the only option, and that is ok. But when you are armed with knowledge you can make great choices where possible.
We have listed some ways to help you navigate this unfortunate green area. Hopefully this makes things easier for you next time you hit the shops, looking for better alternatives.
You may have heard the words eco-plastic, or green when you search through products at the supermarket. But these can be buzzwords and nothing else! When searching for an eco alternative you want facts on the packaging. What are they doing for the environment? What is the product and the packaging made from? And how can you dispose of it responsibly?
Ahhhhh green! The colour of eco consumption. The percieved better choice on the supermarket shelves and the new trend amongst big brands. Green does not equal eco. Green does not equal plastic-free. Green does not equal a brand that cares about their environmental impact. Just like the above, when it comes to buzzwords, the same thing goes with colours. Look for more. More facts and less fluff.
Degradable, biodegradable, compostable.
It is believed that the new threat on our planet is now eco-plastics. These plastics are being marketed to consumers as being the right choice with no environmental impact. We have literally swapped one bad plastic type with another. Some of these plastics due to the way they are manufactured are just as bad as regular old plastic, but revamped.
So what do these plastic types mean?
Degradable: degradable items are made from plastic that are treated with chemicals which make them break down into smaller pieces of plastic overtime. Micro-plastics! But they never fully breakdown and still become very problematic as they are harder to remove from the environment and also easier for humans and animals to ingest. They also pollute our oceans and soil.
Biodegradable: Made from a broad range of plastic types that (just like degradable) have chemicals to break them down into smaller pieces. This type is very broad and most still take hundreds of years to breakdown completely if they ever do.
Compostable: The best of the 3 choices, compostable means that it will breakdown completely when in the correct environment. Just like the above options, compostable also has different types. Some need to be in industrial compostable facilities to breakdown and some can be at home. If they aren't in the correct conditions it can still take many years to breakdown. Compostable plastics can be made from either oil or plant based materials so this can also effect the environmental impact.
Recycling has been around for a long time but the truth has come out in recent years about the amount of plastic that is actually recycled. According to WWF, only around 12% of our plastic in Australia is recycled. That is pretty low. But if we have no other option, it is the best we can do. Remember to clean your items before recycling and when choosing a product have a look to see if the whole product is actually recyclable? Sometimes only certain parts are.
New plastics require oil and coal to be produced. If you can, opt for recycled plastic materials.
If you have a choice the best is to pick products that are completely plastic-free. Jars or cardboard are great packaging choices and these options are expanding on supermarket shelves.
You don't want purchase decisions to be overwhelming and we can only do so much. Knowledge is power and if you take one thing away from this blog and apply it to your shopping routine, it will make a difference.