Packaging Waste: Wake Up and Smell the Coffee…

Packaging Waste: Wake Up and Smell the Coffee…

The amount of waste produced is known to be extortionate, but the extent hasn’t been truly highlighted until a recent TV series by Hugh Fearnley–Whittingstall’s ‘Hugh’s War on Waste’. In this series, Hugh’s mission is to change the way we think about waste, by challenging the supermarkets and fast food industry to drastically reduce the amount of waste they generate.Pixabay Packaging 1

The first area Hugh looks at is food waste. In the supermarkets, are people actually properly thinking through what they are buying? What’s the point in spending the money and buying the food, if a week later it is just going to be binned? Despite poverty and hunger, approximately 1.3 billion tons of food is wasted each year, enough to feed the 9 billion people who will possibly occupy the planet in 2050, says FutureFood 2050. These are enormous figures, and this is food waste alone.

Pixabay Packaging 2Hugh’s next episode then focuses on the coffee shop culture, which is massive all over the world. It’s almost a fashion accessory, with images flying around the internet of celebrities sporting their favourite brand take away coffee cup. This is all well and good, it’s just a drink, right? Wrong. 5,000 coffee cups are binned EVERY MINUTE and do you know what’s worse? These cups are not recyclable. Starbucks, Costa, Café Nero… what are you playing at?! Even more shocking is that some of these brands wrap sleeves around the cups, which are recyclable, therefore say so. However, they do not state that the cup itself, due to its plastic film lining, is in fact not recyclable.

An area we regularly discuss in this office and one we have seen on the ‘Hugh’s war on waste’ Facebook page, is the excessive packaging that online purchases come in. For example, you order one small object, this comes wrapped in plastic, inside an oversized box, which is then wrapped in plastic. WHY? The cost of the packaging is probably worth more than the little trinket you’ve ordered for 99p off everyone’s favourite bidding website. Then this packaging just gets thrown away – does everyone make the effort to recycle what they can? Unfortunately not. This issue is actually such a thing that there was an article written where people had sent in their ridiculous examples of this!

So since Hugh’s programme, what changes and steps in the right direction have we seen?

  • Starbucks announced a scheme, whereby customers could get their drinks cheaper if they bring their own cups.
  • Costa have removed the recycling triangle symbol from their cups, to eliminate the confusion and misleading message between the cup and paper sleeves being recyclable.

So next time you’re ordering your extra shot, super-duper, caramel, tall, extra fancy, macchiato… take your own ceramic take away cup. Or if you are sent an online purchase in OTT packaging, drop them a message and raise awareness of this phenomenon.

Think your business needs to improve/demonstrate its environmental performance? Get in touch with our Green Achiever Team, or ask how we can help with your packaging data returns, call us on 01743 343403.

(All images are sourced from pixabay, no attribution required.)

E4environment is an environmental consultancy providing professional, practical advice and expertise to both the private and public sector on a wide range of environmental issues.


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