5 Environmental Offenders in Packaged Foods

June 08, 2017

As we enjoy the outdoors this summer and snacks on the go, here are five packaging types that are best avoided.

Are you looking forward to spending your summer days having long picnics, eating on-the-go snacks and socializing with family and friends? While it sounds lovely, these kinds of activities usually involve a big environmental pet peeve – plastic!

The demand for packaged food is not decreasing and while it seems convenient in an every-day situation, the consequences can be long lasting. According to Brent Bell, vice president of recycling at Waste Management, the problem with disposable packaging is that they’re made from multiple layers of materials and the recyclable components can’t be separated out. 

Plastic is now also the biggest threat to our oceans. By 2050 it is estimated that the ocean will have more plastic than fish (in weight) and once plastic reaches the landfill it can take up to 1,000 years to decompose, according to Ocean Conservancy. It also causes a threat to over 600 wildlife species since it leaks pollutions in to our water and soil. 

Recycling is still far from being a perfect solution since it is both time-consuming and expensive and there are still many products that can’t be recycled at all.  

So, here are the top 5 packaged foods you should avoid: 

1. Plastic baby food pouches – they are marketed as clean eating and “greener” food, but the reality is most of them can’t be recycled and therefore ends up in landfills or the ocean. There are many alternatives that both are recyclable and nutritious. The plastic pouches are both pricey and bad for the environment! 

2. Bottled water – one of the most wasteful packaged items but despite that over 60 million plastic water bottles are consumer every day in the U.S. Out of these only 14% are recycled and this effects the environment in a major way. This is a simple change, so find yourself a reusable water bottle and fill it up.

3. Chips bags – most are made from a hot plastic and aluminum hybrid mess that can’t be recycled. The inflated bag can easily blow into a storm drain, travel through sewer pipes and eventually land in waterways. Instead of getting the small bags, buy a bigger chips bag and bring your own reusable bag as a snack. 

4. Single-serving foods – in general, the smaller the package is, more materials are required and the less recyclable it is. Single yogurt and coffee cups are especially problematic since the small size makes them “difficult-to-recycle plastic”. There are many options in packaging and many stores offer reusable choices. 

5. Pre-packed produce – even when buying organic fruits/berries they often are packaged in plastic. This can be to reduce dehydration but when you have the option always go for the unwrapped produce and recycle whenever possible!