Tuesday, October 14, 2014

The Problem with Packaging

God knows why I haven't written about it till now as I have been practicing this for over a decade now. A debate on facebook triggered me to write about it now. Someone was doing a campaign against unnecessary packaging around Diwali...gift wraps etc.

Though I have been terming such initiatives as pseudo-environmentalism but I think its a lack of critical thinking and sense of enquiry amongst people, which make people relate to environmental issues superficially. So, I am not a Holy Cow. But just let me vent it out guys. Also, do read this piece on illogical environmentalism around Holi - http://educationandenvironment.blogspot.in/2013/03/save-water-on-holi-illogical.html

Anyways, let me get to packaging.

Packaging became essential in history when products produced enmasse needed to be preserved and transported. Leaves, Wood and rope were primary packaging materials used at some time. Then came paper and it was paper packets we had to deal with along with Glass to pack liquids. As these packaging materials were not durable, the thirst of humans took them to plastic and pet.

Thats when the problem started. biscuits, chips etc started getting packed in plastic packets and so did liquids in plastic and pet bottles. Packets became sachets and we littered everywhere. Initially it was less but then even the basic groceries started coming in packets - pulses, paneer, spices and even dahi.
Today you cant even think of buying groceries without packets.

While we thought we were getting cleaner, nicely packed items. we started throwing things here and there. You would find a chips packet even on a trek in the mountains and in fresh water streams. And this would lay in the jungle for ages, never to be degraded. And I dont think even 5% of these packets are recycled. Mixed with wet waste, they lie in the landfills of cities and dumping sites near towns and villages.

There have been movements to ban plastic bags. But thats just perhaps 20% of the entire plastic waste. The real culprits are the packed big companies products that you consume.Nobody dare ban them. Himachal Pradesh High Court was going to take a decision to ban them but I think the case has gone in cold box now. After all its the economy of so many companies involved.

We can deal with this at a personal and policy level.

I have been dealing with this at a personal level for quite some time. I avoid packed products as far as possible. So, very rarely would you find me consuming packed biscuits and chips. I would rather eat biscuits from a local bakery or naan khatai in a paper packet. I know I miss out on life and Kurkure, but I am ready to give that much for environment. I remember at a party I hosted in my house, what a pain it was to get fresh juice from a local shop to serve fresh and get open or khulla paneer. I was a radical then. Now I know there is as much  I can do. But I try and do the best.

Many people laugh at me, open a packed chips packet and offer me saying...now its not packed. But I am clear I want to do it.

Its the same with liquids. You buy coke mobile and then throw the pet bottle away, which is unlikely to be recycled and even if it gets recycled it will create nuisance in terms of gases emitted during recycling. I say...where have the glass coke bottles disappeared. Why cant we consume in glass bottles and get a refill. No damage to environment. Milk used to be sold in bottles in Delhi at sometime. Why cant it happen now? World Conferences on environment happen and pet bottles of drinking water adorn the panelists tables. What the hell is such environmentalism for?

I carry a water bottle and there are some interesting initiatives of refill going on. Read http://publicsolutions.blogspot.in/2013/02/refill-your-water-bottlecola.html

I think Modi's campaign of cleaning up India is well intended but we cant live by cleaning up and hiding our litter. What happens to the litter in the dustbin is the key question if you are talking of real environmental sustainability.

I invite everybody to take responsibility for the waste they generate on a daily basis. Quit packaged products. Lets talk to companies and promote sustainable packaging.

Parle G biscuits were once packed in paper packets. Why cant Coke and Pepsi promote glass bottles. I know its difficult and perhaps may even cost more to the company. But tell me, is it ok to do a karma which will be there in this world for centuries.

Lets clean up and do the karma, which liberates us and the world. Lets avoid and perhaps quit packed products.


Nepalese Teacher Network for Sustainable Education said...


I am an teacher and networker from Nepal on ESD. I suggest we should network. Please visit our website http://www.nepaleseteacher.org/ .. for recycling tins and cans, I wish to share Norway's very successful story.

Anonymous said...

http://sustainable-event-alliance.org/norway/about/norwegian-bottle-and-tin-deposit-system/ .. sorry I missed the link in previous comment.

Education and Environment said...

Thanks for sharing your initiative. will connect. you can write to me at smusafir@gmail.com to connect

Education and Environment said...

Thanks for sharing your initiative. will connect. you can write to me at smusafir@gmail.com to connect

Education and Environment said...

Thanks for sharing your initiative. will connect. you can write to me at smusafir@gmail.com to connect

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