Product packaging, additives, recycling and food waste

 design-fetish-milk-bottle-doorstop-by-duncan-shotton-5

Food waste

In most magazines and news articles I have read we are told the consumer is at fault for food waste. Articles like this one on The Ecologist web site tell us that we don’t do enough. We the consumers are at fault for throwing thousands of pounds worth of food into our dustbins. Yet each time I see a poorly designed container I wonder how I am supposed to reduce my food waste.

You know the type of containers I mean. Those that have weird lips near the top, where it is nigh on impossible to get an implement to reach the food contained inside as illustrated below. Or the food inside is so thick, that it doesn’t run out of the container, so you are left with waste. Or you are resigned to ‘watering’ the product down to get it out fo the container.

caramelised-onion-chutney

Unless manufacturers take some responsibility first for designing packaging that allows the consumer to empty the contents without waste or further faffing around then consumers cannot be solely responsible.

sunpat

How a product is packaged affects the consumer, but it also affects the manufacturer. After all, it is in their interests that there is wastage as this means we have to buy some new product. The manufacturer makes profit from product we can’t use. So, it is in their interests if we cannot access all of the product. A bit like lightbulbs that never break. If they could manufacture them, they wouldn’t because it wouldn’t be profitable enough.

Excess packaging

Those familiar with Amazon may know about FFP or Frustration Free Packaging. This is where the manufacturers packaging may already be removed and the item is packaged in a simple bag or some such. You know, like batteries that come in blister packs that can be an absolute nightmare to get in to. Almost like the manufacturer doesn’t wasnt you to use them! Other items packaged in such a way can be food. Did anyone ever figure out how you are supposed to open a Tetra Pak without spillage or scissors or a knife? Even the owner couldn’t once on a TV programme. Everyone knows how they are supposed to open, but they never want to seem to.

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Tetra Pak packaging

In my younger years we used to have milk, and orange juice, in bottles. These were brilliant. Easy to open with a foil top, recyclable (which we’ll get on to further down), easy to recycle for the dairy (washed, good to go). There used to be thousands of them in use in the UK in the 1960’s when I was born. (They were used much earlier. See the Wiki article here). But then plastic became a thing. You know, the same plastic we are now being told that is polluting our oceans. Go figure.
Oh, I almost forgot. In my city we used to have a few door-to-door soda companies, in the 70’s. You’d order your drinks, they’d drop them off. They would also pick up the empty bottles and you would get a credit for them. 7p each at the time, which was quite a lot. This promoted the collection of the bottles rather than people throwing them away in the dustbin. Recycling as it should be! With big industries though, these companies all died out. A shame. Maybe we would still be recycling them.

design-fetish-milk-bottle-doorstop-by-duncan-shotton-5
An old milk bottle. They also contained fresh orange juice from some dairy’s.

Then some bright spark though up bottle banks. You take your empty wine, beer and anything-else bottles and place them in a skip with a hole. Some segregate different colour glass into brown, green and clear, others don’t. These are taken away and recycled, at great cost to the council and nothing back for the consumer, other than a hangover maybe.

Over packaged?

I use Amazon only as an example. For those that buy things from them, have you ever seen this kind of thing delivered to your door (upon opening)? I have. I also get this kind of thing from other companies too. Surely they must have something smaller and more appropriate to pack the purchase in?

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OTT packaging. Surely a padded envelope would have sufficed?

Or bananas in plastic bags at your local supermarket? Tomatoes in plastic trays? Apples in plastic trays and plastic bags, together! Why? Is it to protect the fruit or vegetable, to make it easier to transport or possible for the supermarket to mark the price up as you are paying for the packaging? It is all just so unnecessary. And don’t even get me started on those packs that claim to be resealable but actually are not.

Recycling

Milk bottle, soda bottles. Foil tops. Paper bags. All replaced by plastics. And the consequence? Plastic pollution in our oceans. But yet, we had this problem sorted in years gone by. It’s just that as advancement and profitability rule the world, we forgot we also need to take care of our planet. It’s the only one we have, yet we seem to have this lemming-like need to cause as much damage to it as possible. Plastic bags are another cause of pollution in our oceans and cities. Why can’t we use paper bags? It seems that instead of going forwards we go backwards. When I was younger we recycled and things where made of recyclable materials. These days mostly everything is made from plastic in one form or another. How much of the food you purchase in the supermarket is packaged in plastic? Markets of old didn’t have this problem. You turned up with your woven shopping bag, asked the person for 1lb of tomatoes and they’d go into a paper bag, which would then go into your woven shopping bag or trolley. You’d then catch the bus home, because few people could afford cars!

Additives

I don’t even know where to begin with this one. One of the most annoying aspects of food purchased from supermarkets is the additives they use and the reasons why.
Lets start with bacon. I like bacon. Most of you like bacon I expect. What I don’t like about my bacon is that when I cook it, there is this white horrible crap that comes out of it. This, I’m told is the nitrites. Some chemical used to preserve the bacon. Oddly though, it is also in smoked and cured bacon from the supermarket. Now correct me if I’m wrong, but doesn’t smoking or curing bacon preserve it? Nitrites increase shelf life, reduce bacteria and create the pink hue that gives bacon a fresh appearance. So it means they can have it sitting on the shelf longer and it’ll still look fresh. Great. It doesn’t really do anything for the consumer that a proper cure or smoke wouldn’t accomplish. Not to mention the water they fill it with. They add water so they can make more money, because bacon is sold by weight and by adding water they add weight. This is why your dinner plate sized bacon rasher ends up looking like a postage stamp after it’s cooked. All the added water has evaporated during the cooking process.

Anyone tried to buy a soda or dilute that contains sugar these days? Because everything these days has to be marginally more healthy than the way it used to be made, most sodas these days contain artificial sweeteners. Now, the industry would have you believe that this is because sweetener is better for you and your children’s teeth. The real answer is that sweetener is considerably more sweet than sugar and also a lot less expensive, see the table below. Which means that it is in the interests of the profitability of the company to use sweetener. Sweeteners may also have long-term health implications, but for the time being we use them anyway.

sweet
Excerpt from http://www.sugar-and-sweetener-guide.com/sweetener-prices.html

Me, I’m an adult. I prefer sugar. I’m aware of the health risks. I make my own health choices, good or bad. Can I get a soda with sugar in it? It’s tough, but there are some drinks out there that still have good ol’ sugar in ’em. 7up, Coke, Pepsi and Tango to name a few. Mostly your major brands.  Most supermarket own brand soda contains no sugar or very little.

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