Last updated on December 11, 2021.
“We cannot recycle or compost our way out of the growing plastic pollution problem. Instead of pretending that the trillions of throwaway plastic items produced each year will be recycled or composted, we must stop producing so many of them in the first place.”1
My thirteen-part packaging series was first inspired by a book.
I began this series over Christmas break 2019. My original goal was to write a well-researched pair of articles about the packaging industry, packaging waste, and what we can do as consumers to improve packaging. I had about 10 days off from work and I got up before my son every morning to research and write. I did not finish it over the break and kept working on it over the next couple of months. Finally, in March 2020 I published my first article in the series. Even at that point, it was only meant to be three parts. Then it became four articles, five articles, and so forth, with COVID-19 landing in the middle of all of that. There was so much to learn and explore that it just kept growing.
“Plastic packaging has become increasingly complex, with colors, additives, and multilayer, mixed compositions making it ever more difficult to recycle.”2
The Growth of a Series
The Future of Packaging introduced me to the complexities of the packaging industry. Upon further research, I began to wonder how I could make this much information accessible to as many people as possible. After it became thirteen parts, I put together the Quick Guide, a table of contents for easy reference.
I never intended this to be a thirteen-part series, but I kept finding topics that required depth and careful consideration. Packaging is something we encounter every single day, so I felt an urgency to stay focused on this subject. After I finished Part 13, the one about food packaging, I felt like I’d written a thorough and elaborate series. Still, I did not cover every aspect of packaging. I did not include the extreme packaging waste from take-out food, which has certainly increased since the onset of COVID-19. I declined to research cosmetics packaging and refillable cosmetics options. Last, I decided to not research pre-consumer waste, meaning waste materials created during the manufacturing process and before the product is ready for consumer use.
Of course, my goal is always that I want people to be eco-conscious. But what if we could normalize this consciousness? What if most of our daily decisions were environmentally conscious as the default? Maybe then we could call this mode of consumerism environmentally sub-conscious. How tremendous would that be?
“If we accept sustainability as a core value within ourselves rather than something we should do to be considered a good person, then we are more likely to succeed in adjusting our habits.” -Beth Porter, author of Reduce, Reuse, and Reimagine
If my Packaging Industry series has helped even just a few people rethink their roles as consumers, changed how they judge packaging, and informed how they think about waste in general, then I feel like I’ve made a difference. That alone makes it worth the 8 months this took me to research, digest, and write this series. I certainly learned a great deal and changed some of my own behaviors.
But I’m not really done, there will always be more to write about. Packaging will continue because it’s necessary, but we need to create less packaging waste and better packaging that has a second life. We all have the power to consume differently, and we all vote with our spending. Just by reading this series, dear reader, you are making a difference. The information is in your mind and simply thinking about your own behaviors will have positive effects. You make the world a better place.
Thanks for taking this journey with me, and please subscribe. I’ll see you next time.
“If you want to eliminate waste in your life – and in the world – the answers will always come down to one simple thing: consume differently.” -Tom Szaky
Website, Sustainable Packaging Coalition, accessed March 28, 2021.
Article, “Eat your food, and the package too,” by Elizabeth Royte, National Geographic Magazine, August 2019.
Article, “The cost of plastic packaging,” by Alexander H. Tullo, Chemical & Engineering News, October 17, 2016.
Website, Packaging of the World, accessed March 28, 2021.
Website, Packaging Digest, accessed March 28, 2021.