There is no waste in nature, as at the end of every living thing’s life it serves as a source of nutrients once it returns from where it came. Thus, waste in a modern sense is a human creation – and modified materials like plastic, a mutation of nature.
While many companies have introduced “green packaging”, and certainly the efforts have been impressive, it would be incorrect to herald them as sustainable. For a package to be sustainable, its existence must create zero waste. It also cannot rely on finite resources for its manufacture and use. This is because sustainability is marked by the ability to perform an action (such as creating package materials) infinitely, which is not possible as long as we rely on depleting fuels for manufacturing.
Unfortunately, all packaging today requires energy to produce, even materials praised for their low environmental impact. But there exists materials that may be used and disposed of in way that creates no waste. To achieve this, a package must be edible, dissolve-able, or biodegradable.
Such materials are on the rise and appear to have a promising future. Many of them are made from fruits and vegetables, and their by-products. One such example is water soluble packaging peanuts, which are made from starch. Those made by the Starch Tech company can be washed away with sink-water or, in warmer climates, added to the compost. They can also double as artistic tools, used as one would with a paint brush or sponge.
Edible wraps are another example of waste-free packaging. Destined to replace plastic wrap, edible wraps come in the form of colorful sheets made from fruit and vegetable puree. When used to package food items, the wrap could be removed and eaten, or allowed to dissolve on the food as it cooks, acting as a flavorful glaze.
It is important that a material be dissolve-able rather than disperse-able. The latter being able to break down into small particles, but unable to vanish completely.
Another source of waste reduction is found in packages with optimal capacity. Using enough material to keep items protected without over-packaging. This not only limits the amount of material used but makes better use of space.
There is simply no need for cellphone to be transported in a cardboard box twenty times its size – and overflowing with Styrofoam packaging peanuts.
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