In general, the saying, “It’s what’s on the inside that counts,” rings true. But when it comes to packaging, we’d argue it's the outside that carries the bulk of the weight.
In 2018 alone, the EPA notes that packaging made up 28.1% of total solid waste in the United States. Said another way, that’s about 82.2 million tons. While those statistics are staggering, when you really think about it, the numbers track. No matter where you live or shop, it’s incredibly rare to find products that aren’t packaged. Particularly during the heart of the pandemic when many of us opted for online shopping and relied on packaging to keep us out of harm's way, it's easy to see how the problem has evolved even during the past year and a half.
Now, you might be thinking, plastic, that’s gotta be the problem. And while you’re not wrong, many less assuming materials, like glass and cardboard, pose equal challenges to the global waste problem. Glass, although highly recyclable, is in fact very expensive to process. Similarly, cardboard decomposes fairly easily, but landfills and the materials in them can hamper cardboard’s natural disintegration.
In the spirit of Plastic Free July, here are some of our favorite alternatives to popular packaging to help you lower your waste this month—and beyond:
Although it can be tempting to buy a collection of new Mason jars or cute packaging containers, consider other ways you can pack items that actually prevent waste. Tomato sauce jars can be a great way to store leftovers. Hold on to cardboard boxes you get from any online purchases to use for shipping or even an upcoming move. Regardless of the material, reuse is always an eco-friendly option as it keeps perfectly usable items out of landfills and reduces the need to produce more so hastily.
At Poplinen, we knew the majority of our sales would be made online. And that meant a whole lot of shipping. Rather than compounding the waste problem, we chose to use packaging from No Issue, a company that makes compostable, reusable and recyclable shipping alternatives. By keeping wasteful materials to a minimum, we’re helping our customers make better consumption decisions—sometimes without them even realizing it! On top of our dedication to sourcing natural & deadstock fabrics, it’s just another way we’re minimizing our environmental impact.
Bulk and low-waste stores are popping up in many cities across the country. Although some are pricey, others accept SNAP benefits and offer more accessible payment options. In these stores, you can bring your own containers and fill them up with anything from nuts to household cleaners. The best part? You only pay for the product itself—never the packaging. This method not only encourages reuse, it also lets consumers buy only what they need, preventing more unnecessary waste.
Reducing our individual waste can feel like a daunting task. But every small change you make is a huge step in the right direction. Be sure to stay tuned to our IG stories this month for even more plastic-free tips! #progressnotperfection