Alternatives for Plastic Wrapping in Your Household
What sensible and promising alternatives for plastic are there from research? This question concerns not only scientists, but also us consumers, dealers and, of course, environmentalists. Because everyone whose heart beats for sustainability feels at least a brief dropout of their heart rate when they see the plastic masses in the environment and the further consequences of the plastic. Time to think about which material could replace plastic wrapping in the long term.
In this article, you will now learn everything about the best existing and future plastic wrapping alternatives.
Before we start talking about alternative materials as a plastic substitute, we must briefly explain why so many people long for a sustainable alternative:
- Plastic kills nature: We create unnecessary plastic packaging and thousands of convenient, disposable products. As we do not handle plastic properly, 135,000 marine mammals and 1 million seabirds die each year from the consequences of our plastic waste in the environment. Through the garbage whirlpool in the sea, plastic also transmits diseases to continents where they did not previously exist.
- Limited natural material: Plastic consists of petroleum or crude oil, a finite natural material. A sustainable alternative for plastics made from renewable materials is needed.
- Eternal material: Plastic is not biodegradable and does not rot. Every little piece of microplastic that has ever been produced is still somewhere on our planet. While still 1.5 million tons were produced worldwide in 1950, in 2015 the figure was 322 million tons.
- Toxic material: We are also crying out for plastic alternatives from research because conventional plastic is toxic. Our children, in particular, need to be protected from plasticizers, as they interfere with our children's development. Plastic also enters our food chain, as fish eat microplastics and then end up on our plate again.
New Zealand supermarkets are finally trialling less plastic on their fruit and veggies from r/ZeroWaste
Recycling is not the solution
Is plastic wrapping recycable at all? Yes and no.
One reason for this is that plastic cannot always be recycled. Plastics must be sorted by type for recycling. However, since these can be easily adapted to the specific requirements of the manufacturers, they are often mixed with one another or combined with other substances. Also, different types of rubbish often end up in the recycle bin, which makes the recycling process even more difficult. The result: rising costs that manufacturers are unwilling to pay.
Another problem is the waste incineration plants, which sprang up like mushrooms as a result of the 2005 ban on landfills. Enormous emissions result from waste incineration for electricity and heat generation. As a result, the incineration plants are subsidized by the state. For those responsible to simply incinerate the garbage instead of recycling it, it becomes more attractive.
An article by the independent media network Euractiv even says that among the incinerated waste tons of plastics have already been recycled, for which no customer was an owner. And the energy yield is also rather weak. Since many of the waste incineration plants are outdated and unable to use the resulting energy sufficiently, on average, only 50% of the energy is generated.
It seems almost ironic that waste incineration is still equated with other renewable energies such as wind, water and sun.
Avoid plastic wrapping for shipping
The Federal Environment Agency published figures on packaging waste - a total of 18.7 million tonnes, more than ever before. It cited the trend towards the mail-order trade as one reason for the increase: because more packages are sent, more wrapping packaging is needed, so it also produces more garbage.
Although the numbers come from 2017, a research assistant at the Federal Environment Agency, says: "Packaging consumption has been increasing for years and is likely to continue to increase."
Online shopping is not only an environmental problem because of the packaging waste: parcels have to be transported from the retailer to the recipient, and in case of a return they have to be returned. That consumes energy and produces CO2. How much that is per order is difficult to quantify because the length of the transport routes and the weight of the packages play a role.
And still: Forecasts show that the number of online buyers will increase rather than decrease. For people who are not mobile or live on the countryside, online shopping can be the only way to get specific products. But there are ways in which customers can at least reduce the negative environmental impact.
In everyday life, ask yourself in every situation in which you are confronted with plastic, whether there is no other alternative, and you only choose the easiest way for convenience.
A lot of plastic waste can often be avoided by just stopping and thinking for a moment - whether in the bar, if you do not use a straw or when shopping if you put the vegetables loosely in the shopping cart instead of buying them in the practical plastic packaging.
Do you need plastic for food packaging?
A neat plastic wrapping keeps our food away from rotting. Pasta, cheese bread or soup - according to a recent study, we eat more than 100 tiny plastic particles with every meal. However, the plastic is not in the food itself but reaches our food through the air.
As scientists at Heriot Watt University in Edinburgh found out, we also ingest plastic every day - through our meals. The average person consumes up to 68,415 tiny plastic fibres each year when eating, the researchers calculated. The fibres are potentially dangerous.
To not confront you with even more plastic fibres, we collected a list of alternatives for plastic in your household:
Eliminate unnecessary disposable products from everyday life
Plastic plates and cutlery, drinking straws and stirrers: they are used only for a few minutes and then end up in the trash. Does that have to be? Wouldn't it make more sense if we did a little more washing up after the picnic or the party and thereby protect the environment and, by the way, protect your wallet?
Our tip: Use reusable dishes or only offer drinks and snacks that do not need unnecessary plastic. If you are too lazy to wash up after the party, you can ask the beverage supplier for glasses. Many offer the delivery of glasses and even the rinsing afterwards as a service.
Buy at "eco-friendly" stores
Supermarkets and discounters: Here, as a customer, you often have little chance of buying unwrapped food. Usually, the product is wrapped in a lot of plastic to showcase it better.
Our tip: If possible, support small, eco-friendly stores. These stores already exist in many larger cities - containers brought along are refilled here. There are also so-called zero-waste shops on the Internet that only send their goods in used boxes. Otherwise, the weekly market and shops with fresh food counters can be an alternative to avoid plastic.
Fruits and vegetables in plastic wrapping
The fruit is quickly filled into the small, transparent plastic bag because you don't want to put the shopping loosely on the conveyor belt. And organic fruit is often shrink-wrapped in plastic in the supermarket. This is where you start to skid when shopping in an environmentally conscious manner.
Our tip: The plastic around it is usually completely unnecessary, because fruits and vegetables often have their own protective cover or simply have to be washed off well. Bring your own reusable bags for mushrooms, cherries, lettuce and the like or at least use them several times for plastic bags that have already accumulated at home.
Disposable carrier bags
Whether made of plastic or paper - the ecological balance of disposable carrier bags is miserable. Fortunately, plastic and paper bags are now much less available at supermarket checkouts or only at an additional cost.
Our tip: Reusable carrier bags are often offered in stores. It is best to bring your backpack or shopping bag for shopping from home.