Happy New Year!
Have you recovered from whatever holidays you may have celebrated in the past month? I have not yet cleared away the stack of shipping boxes that delivered many of our gifts. Something about the crispness of the brown cardboard, used only once, begs to be saved for another purpose before being collapsed and recycled.
I find myself increasingly surrounded by packaging. Most normal people would just throw it out with the trash, but I hate to be wasteful. A jar that once held wheat germ is a perfectly good container for something else, something dry and powdery like flour — or more wheat germ — and it wouldn’t even need to be washed out for reuse. So I keep it, just in case it might come in handy one day. Eventually I will remember that I never found a use for the empty jar from my previous purchase of wheat germ, and I will reluctantly toss it into the recycling bin. It seems wrong to me, considering how much it will cost someone somewhere to melt that glass down just to mold another glass jar for another single-use container. Such a wasteful society we have created for ourselves.
I bought sea salt from the grocery store, which came packaged in a sturdy glass jar with a feeble plastic grinder built into the lid. When the salt is gone, I am left with an empty container which has little value, neither as a storage jar nor as a grinder for other spices. The plastic blades are worn out; the glass jar is pristine and yet useless without a proper top. On my next purchase, I bought the cheaper plastic container of sea salt, but the grinder lid is of a different design, and it doesn’t work as well as the first one did. There is a mismatch here, and it annoys me.
I buy toothpaste which comes out of a dispenser. My household likes the product, and in theory we should be able to buy refills and reuse the dispenser base. Our local store has stopped carrying individual refills. They sell twin-packs now: two refill cartridges packages with a new dispenser. They are forcing us to buy a new base now, whether we need one or not. I now have an extra dispenser base taking up space in my cupboard instead of a landfill. I will throw it away when the next replacement is bought, but I will still keep the most recent one “just in case…”
When I was a kid, we could buy ball-point pens at the office supply store by the individual stick from a bin instead of by the package. Now they come sealed in flat packs, more one-time-use wrappers of paper and plastic. I remember returning Coca-Cola bottles back to the vending machine at the gas station. Buying a product back then involved refilling an existing container, not buying a new one along with its contents.
Now, I am conscious that every purchase of a consumable is also a purchase of its packaging. When that package is empty, I still own it. How can I justify throwing anything away? I am dangerously close to being labeled as “a hoarder”. And yet, when the world runs out of oil for producing new plastic tubs for ice cream, you will thank me that I saved a few “just in case”.