I have a problem with buying “bulk” because often it is not bulk. Bulk items are in a bin and you pour them into one container, whether a bag or a bucket. Many items are classified as bulk but are really prepackaged: a 24-pack of chips, a box of cookies packaged into twos for lunches, mini chocolate bars in a wrapper in a bag. These are not bulk but packaged. What all these convenience items have in common is that they’re overpackaged. Instead of one bag, there are many bags, in a box, wrapped in plastic.
The items can range from dried foods, to light bulbs, to frozen foods, to you name it. Where do all the chip and cookie bags, the Styrofoam bowls, the plastic wrap and other packaging go? Into the landfill, often too toxic to burn, but can leak those lovely chemicals into the ground. Sure many landfills are lined to contain the chemical sludge but still, there is only so much space and plastics especially are nasty to create and take thousands of years to break down.
There are several ways to be more conscious of the impact our shopping makes on our environment. One is to not buy prepackaged foods but buy bulk. I buy my veggies and nuts and meat as bulk as I can. Then for lunch I take reusable containers and put my foods into them. (Never microwave foods in plastic containers as the plastic will do damage to your system. Keep a glass container on hand.) If I was to buy cookies, I’d buy a big bag and package them myself, or better yet, bake them. A big bag of chips parceled into a smaller plastic container is far better.
Some companies are working on lessening their packaging. You can now get the equivalent of Styrofoam “corn” packaging material, which is actually corn. If you don’t reuse it, you can wash it down the drain and it will dissolve in seconds. Corn is being used to make plastic looking forks and knives for fast food or deli outlets. I ran into these in a supermarket with a deli section in Kansas. Again, if the forks go into the landfill, they dissolve without leaving chemical residue.
I’ve always said that if necessity was the mother of invention, laziness was the father. It’s too bad that part of the state of our world and environment is because of convenience because of laziness. To package your own food doesn’t take that much extra time and I’m quite lazy about my lunches. I try not to buy items wrapped in plastic and bags and boxes. The worst to me are the tiny things (usually electronics) packaged in a hard plastic container that’s five times the size of the item. It’s unrecyclable plastic and useless. I understand companies have the problem of packaging and advertising something small so that it’s seen but not easily stolen. But if we ask and write and put pressure on them, more viable and environmentally solutions can be found.
Which makes me think it’s time to write more letters to companies.