September 7, 2020
When I received my shipment of San Juan Worms, I was amazed by the packaging the order came in. Admittedly, I did order a dozen of these flies but let me be honest, they were all on a #16 hook. That means the whole lot slipped into a plastic baggie that was 1 1/2” by 2 ½”, and about a ¼” deep. Even with in this small bag, over half was filled with air. What surprised me was the box the worms shipped in. This was a standard small shipping box that measured 8” by 6” x 6”. The inside was packed with wadded paper and an air-filled plastic bag. I guess this was necessary to keep the flies from bouncing around. I doubted they would have broken.
Earlier this year the American Sustainable Business Council put out a post decrying the excessive use of packaging in America. While America has around 5% of the world’s population, we generate 40% of its packaging waste, and much of this is plastic. In 2018 the European Union banned many single-use plastics, something the U.S has resisted. The exponential growth of online product sales has accelerated the production of direct-ship-to-user packaging waste. Incineration is a toxic solution, landfills are limited, and foreign countries are reluctant to accept our waste. Recycling is not an option for all materials and is not widely used when it is an option. That is for plastic and does not address the wasted cardboard surrounding my order.
I know there are some shipped products that need to be protected. Melissa’s succulents come wrapped in gauze or paper towels and are placed in Styrofoam peanuts or other cushioning material to protect the delicate plants from the rough treatment they receive in transport. I do not know how many of her boxes clearly marked “fragile” have arrived partially crushed. Luckily, the interior packaging has saved the plants from destruction. Most shipments do not need this special care. It seems merchandisers are relying on one size fits all packaging to cut costs and to speed delivery. My flies could have been mailed in a small envelope, with room to spare.
THOUGHTS: We are living in a time when our resources are being stretched to the limit. The cardboard represents millions of trees cut down. The single use plastics go into landfills and oceans and last for thousands of years. When they begin to breakdown, they become even more toxic as micro-plastics chocking out animal life. How we use packaging materials needs to be a conscious choice. We cannot waste precious resources for a quick dollar or to shave seconds off delivery times. Not being “business as usual” could be positive. However, we need to rethink and retrain our old response. This is true for packaging, but also for our treatment of others. We need to do the work. Change is coming and it starts with you.