Shopping for Low-Impact Packaging vs. China's Recycling Economy

Last week I posted a poll: what ethical considerations trump all others when you're shopping?  There is no right answer, as fair trade, organic, cruelty-free, local goods, and items without excess packaging are all good things to look for. Sometimes, though, it helps to have a few facts on hand when writing your shopping list.

A blogger I've mentioned before, Beth from Fake Plastic Fish, is obviously very serious about the packaging angle, going so far as to try and prevent any plastic from getting into her household...and going out of it to the landfill. She often has interesting facts about hidden plastic and tips for choosing lower-plastic alternatives (like a low-plastic toothpaste tube) but she also has great reflections about explaining her lifestyle choices to the uninitiated.

Recently she participated in an interview that led to some sad and hilarious comments from people that don't really get her plastic-free aims. Like most things in life, this experience led to a great FAQs-style list of considerations about plastic that I found very helpful.

First, many people seem to believe that recycling plastic will solve the problem.  Recycling plastic is important, but it's better referred to as downcycling...Second, there is a common misperception that if the plastic Garbage Patch in the North Pacific Gyre were such a problem, we should be able to see it from space. Unfortunately, this is not the case....

Read Beth's comments about drinking straws, medical supplies, and other plastic stuff here.

Finally, if you ever come across someone that "just doesn't get" why recycling plastic water bottles doesn't make bottled water okay, direct them to the video below. Britain's Sky News finds British junk mail in China (along with huge piles of plastic bottles) and tracks down the family who originally received it. People just like many of us, avid recyclers who are a little fuzzy on what happens after they put their recycling on the curb.

Tags: Bottled water, Junk mail, Plastic, Shopping tips

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