Who hasn't seen the gory images of oceans with floating plastic islands? Almost 80% of the waste you've seen there comes from packaging materials.
So many of our everyday purchases come securely wrapped with layers of unnecessary plastic and non biodegradable material, so that they appear secure, sanitary and safe to the consumer's eye. I can recall so many instances, where I've been guilty of picking up packages that have been shrink wrapped in plastic, because they are more likely to have not leaked in transit or been contaminated by pests.
When I first started thinking about Rooted so many years ago, little did I know that I would receive an education on so many fronts - esp. packaging. My journey to find the right mix of packaging for Rooted's 20+ unique products, led me to the unsettling understanding of the environmental footprint we leave on the earth.
For example, did you know that much of the waste in landfills is from packaging alone? In 2018, The Economic Times estimated that "In India, 80% of total plastic consumption is discarded as waste and official statistics say the country generates 25,940 tonnes of waste daily. At least 40% of this is uncollected."
Many consumers, for lack of awareness, assume that most materials can be recycled if properly segregated for the municipal corporations. That's true only to some extent - consider the lifespan of some of these materials for recycling (thanks Charlotte Packaging).
- Paper – 5 to 7 times
- Cardboard – 3 to 4 times
- Glass – Infinitely
- Plastic – Once
- Polystyrene – Once
- Aluminium, copper and other metals – Infinitely
As a small business owner, I struggled to reconcile environmentally friendly solutions vs. the limited capital and resources available to a solo entrepreneur. So what have we done to minimize our ecological footprint?
- We don't purchase unfriendly packaging materials: We resolved never to purchase plastic materials such as bubble wrap, Styrofoam peanuts or plastic air pillows for packaging. This is so that we can perhaps influence source reduction - i.e. discourage the creation / manufacturing of new material. If you've received this as a customer, it is only because we received them from others and chosen to use forward vs. discard to end up in a landfill.
- Re-use and up-cycle: Often, our customers will receive products wrapped neatly in old newspaper. It stems from our resolve to be resourceful and just use what we have vs. create new material.
- Encourage recycling - for customers who send us back their used bottles for reuse, we offer 10% off the next order. It's a win-win for everyone in the value chain.
I do have aspirations though - as we grow - I want to continue to evolve and upgrade our packaging to have the minimal possible environmental impact, become an advocate with our suppliers to use only metals and glass for storage and shipping and educate our customers to make smarter choices when making that luxury purchase.
Who hasn't felt enamored by the beautiful, multi-layered, experiential packaging you receive with the products you purchase? I know I have. But now, I know better.
So, my fellow inhabitants of the earth, next time you buy that irresistible gift set, think about it whether it's really necessary and consider what would happen if it went from your dressing table to landfill or ocean somewhere.
Make smarter choices. Let's make peace with our oceans.