January 18, 2012

K-cups and squeeze packs are NOT green

Calling all waste watchers!

Excuse me if I sound like Andy Rooney (may he rest in peace), but did you ever wonder when Americans fell in love with single serve food packaging?

This question popped into my head recently (too much caffeine?) as I enjoyed K-cup brewed coffee in our daughter’s kitchen. Are these little plastic gizmos even recyclable? No familiar chasing-arrows triangle logo on them!

So I checked the Keurig website and discovered that the coffee industry is also “very sensitive about the waste created by the K-Cup portion packs and are investigating alternative materials.” Sure hope they have them soon.

Manufacturers are going squeeze pack crazy. Even houseplant fertilizers now come in single-use packaging.

One out of every three servings of water is taken from one of the 45 million plastic water bottles purchased every day, 90 percent of which are not recycled.

 Today’s parents — Are raising many spoon-impaired kids who prefer single serve “easy squeezy” packaging. I have almost recovered from my Pampers disposable diapers guilt during the 1980s, and I now find myself casting blame on the manufacturers of my two year old grandson’s favorite snacks. He prefers “squeezy yogurt” in tubes (gogurt) and “squeezy applesauce” on-the-go that must contain about 5 spoons worth. These pouch packs require no spoon and they are convenient for car trips and lunchboxes. But they take up landfill space until someone comes up with compostable packaging.

I admit they are very convenient and that my children’s diapers will linger forever in Texas and New Jersey landfills.

But yogurt also comes in #5 plastic containers that are recyclable at the Colonial Williamsburg Recycling Center on Botetourt St. The challenge is to minimize or eliminate packaging in the first place—before it becomes waste.

A Stonyfield Farm study revealed that switching to 32-ounce yogurt containers from the single-use 8-ounce cups normally packed in school lunches and served at school would save 12,000 barrels of oil per year.
The average elementary school student eating homemade lunches is estimated to generate between 45 and 90 pounds of plastic bags, foil pouches, and other packaging waste each year. That’s more than a lot of them weigh!

Supposedly, Americans purchase and throw away over 300 million hot and cold take-out beverage containers each day.

What can YOU do? Weight Watchers (waist watchers) promotes this kind of packaging for “portion control.” But “waste watchers” can buy in bulk and pack their own 100-calorie servings in reusable cups.

Bigger used to be better, but many consumers are no longer willing to spend more per volume for single serve mini-boxes of cereal and pudding or other snack packs--even though they are convenient and portable for today’s on the go mothers.

Look for an alternative product without packaging or the least amount of packaging. This might send a message to manufacturers that you don't like waste.

Consider it a treat when you choose those convenient microwavable single portion soups. The alternative is soup in BPA-lined cans.