January 28th 2016
While you could nearly get away with it in this unseasonably warm weather, this plea is actually aimed at the shopping choices of Irish consumers. VOICE, an Irish environmental charity that campaigns for the responsible use of resources, is urging consumers to go naked. In an effort to free us all from the hassle of getting through unnecessary packaging on many everyday products, the Dublin-based charity recommends buying naked or unpackaged items where possible.
Among the reasons for moving to a packaging free shopping list, aside from avoiding the bother of tearing through sometimes triple-layers of packaging to reach your food, is the problem of disposing of this waste. Mindy O’Brien, coordinator of VOICE commented: “Discerning what can and can’t be recycled is a difficult task, and the incoming pay-by-weight waste regulations will mean that disposing of unrecyclable waste becomes more costly to households, not to mention to the environment.”
A recent report from the Ellen MacArthur Foundation estimated that by 2050, there will be more plastic in the world’s oceans than fish, if current trends of careless waste disposal continue. Marine litter causes the deaths of hundreds of thousands of sea birds and marine mammals every year, and broken down plastic is consumed by fish, making its way into the human food chain.
In addition to the direct effects that excessive packaging can have on your pocket and the environment, VOICE points out the fact that that selling multipacks of items such as peppers to customers who need only one, can lead to shoppers buying more than they need, and ultimately to food waste. Mindy has a way of getting around this needless waste of food and money, but it’s not for the faint hearted! “I recently opened one of these bags, took only one red chili, weighed it and bought just what I needed, not what the shop wanted me to buy.” Short of encouraging anarchy at the checkouts, consumers can bring their own containers and bags to most shops, and choose loose items where possible.
Some would argue, however, that the responsibility shouldn’t lie only with consumers. O’ Brien points to international examples where shops buy common items, such as cereals, grains and even cleaning products in bulk and sell them by weight, often giving discounts to those who bring their own containers! Irish retailers could greatly reduce their environmental impact by making small changes to their operations, nudging consumers towards sustainable choices.