What’s worse for the planet than millions of vans delivering shopping? Millions of vans delivering air | Waste
Age: Technically, it has been around since bananas came with skin and coconuts with shells. More recently, it has become less good, though.
This is about wasteful and unnecessary packaging, isn’t it? Well, there is that: 300 million tonnes of plastic waste is produced every year, increasing by 9% annually, and with 91% of plastic not being recycled. In the UK alone, nearly half of the estimated five million tonnes of plastic used each year is packaging. Frequently, as with shrinkwrapped bananas, this packaging is entirely unnecessary.
Sounds like an absolute horror show. It is, but there is another new packaging beast on the loose: air.
So you’ve got plastic, which takes between 500 and 1,000 years to decompose, and you want to talk about air, which, last time I took a lungful, was actually quite nice? Have you never been annoyed by that massive box from an online retailer, that you open to find … oh, just a little packet of tap washers, for example?
Yes! So annoying. And wasteful. But I do recycle the cardboard. How evil is it, in the scheme of things, compared with plastics? Well, guess how much air is being shipped to British homes each year, because the cardboard boxes used are bigger than what is inside them?
Er, I give up. 85 million cubic metres.
Oh my God, that’s terrible, even if I have no idea how much that is. How does that compare to the size of something tangible, such as Wales, say? Wales is for area, remember. For volume, we use …
Olympic swimming pools! How many Olympic swimming pools of air is it? It’s 34,000 Olympic swimming pools. Put another way, oversized packaging means five million unnecessary delivery journeys a year, and an extra 85,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide emitted. Then you’ve got the unnecessary extra packaging itself – 170,000 tonnes of cardboard a year, and 480 million square metres of plastic tape, at a cost of £40m.
Just going back to the air thing, it’s not always just air though, is it? No, sometimes the unneeded space is filled with scrunched-up paper, packing peanuts, bubble wrap, plastic, so now we’re back to ramping up those waste figures, too. Research has found that enough of these fillers are used every year to fill London’s O2 Arena.
I’m just imagining the Dome stuffed with packaging filler, and thinking how much fun that would be – but that’s probably not the right way of looking at it. No, it’s not.
Do say: “I’m deleting everything in my basket until it comes with no unnecessary packaging – and is delivered by owl.”
Don’t say: “How many Olympic swimming pools do you get in one O2 Arena anyway?”