So far, for Plastic Free July 2020, we have gone pretty easy. And by that, I mean that hopefully these daily swap suggestions were doable, possible, affordable, and accessible to everyone. Of course, that’s not always the case, but we’re trying our best!
Today’s suggestion is probably the hardest plastic-free swaps that I struggle with both at home and at work: packaging.
The hardest swap? Well, I’m saving that doozy for Day 31.
The plastic nuisance isn’t just limited to the package itself, but includes any plastic materials that go into the packaging to insulate or protect the item. From bubble wrap, to bubble mailers, to saran wrap, to those inflated plastic air pillows Amazon stuffs into boxes. It’s a plastic nightmare.
Check out how Amazon packaged this small box of post-it notes to a customer in Japan:
Remember in 2019 when Amazon started their Shipment Zero campaign? What happened to that? More hot air?
Of course, the best way to avoid unnecessary packaging it so avoid ordering from these websites altogether. We’ve petitioned Amazon to offer sustainable packaging options to the US, which they offer in Germany. But even before COVID, Amazon was not budging with their packaging waste.
Read: Amazon claims they will switch to 100% recyclable/degradable shipping materials by mid-2020. (didn’t happen)
Plastic Packaging Pick-Up Service:
However, there is a company called Ridwell.com offers free pickup of plastic Prime shipping envelopes, poly bags and air pillows. All of the plastic film goes to a collection facility in Washington state and is then processed in Oregon where it is made into things like plastic lumber used in decking.
Problem: they don’t pick up in my area.
Ridwell guide to Plastic Packaging:
And even if you’re not getting amazon deliveries to your home anymore, and high-five to you if that’s true, there’s a good chance your work still does. What then?
Well, if you’re in an area Ridwell services, that’s great.
Before COVID, there were certain (not all) UPS stores that would take and re-use bubble wrap and air pillows for shipments. Once a week, a friend and I would drive a big bag of bubble wrap from the animal shelter to UPS.
Sadly, most locations have stopped doing this during Coronavirus.
I know there’s a bit of a stigma with reusing plastic, even though it’s reusing! Maybe it’s the guilt we feel from having obtained it in the first place. Get over it! The worst thing we can do at this point is take a perfectly functional plastic bubble mailer and toss it into the garbage. Reuse it! Reseal it with paper tape and try to see how many times you and your LDPP (long distance pen pal) can send the same packaging back and forth. Make it a challenge.
OPT FOR PAPER
Even before I was zero waste, wrapping gifts and packages in brown shipping paper was one of my favorite ways to send things. It just looked classy and a little old fashioned — in a good way.
UPS and USPS have no problems shipping secured packages wrapped in brown paper (so you could an inside-out paper bag, too).
Also called craft paper, brown packaging paper can be found at art supply stores, office supply stores, and even Walmart, Target and sometimes pharmacies. It’s relatively inexpensive – around $12 for for 100 feet. Use Amazon as a last resort — you know how they’ll package it. Ridiculously. And I mean that for everything.
Photo: Peter E. Lee