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PACKAGING LABELS DECODED

As the green revolution sets in to stay, product developers target their marketing to entice the everyday environmentally conscious consumer. Greenwashing is a term used to describe the practice of making an unsubstantiated or misleading claim about the environmental impacts of a product. The use of greenwashing spans from claims of nuclear power plants as “the largest source of clean air energy in the world” by Westinghouse, to the use of green colour scheme and the use of “natural images” and environmental terms / claims on labels. As greenwashing explodes in the war to influence purchasing decisions, where does this leave the consumer? We’re here to help with our quick guide to deciphering your supermarket.


WHAT DOES IT ALL MEAN?


Green, recycled, recyclable, environmentally friendly, eco-friendly, environmentally safe, sustainable, compostable, biodegradable, degradable, “Green”, “Eco-Friendly”, “Environmentally friendly”, “Environmentally Safe”, “Sustainable”: Terms that are difficult to prove, and lead consumers to think the product is good for the environment, without any indication as to why it is good or better. These terms should be disregarded unless there is further information or certification.


Recycled: Product is made from previously used materials.


Recyclable: This product can be recycled.


Biodegradable: Can be broken down by living things, usually microorganisms (fungi and bacteria). Temperature and moisture also come in to play when it comes to the biodegradation of plastics. If you place these products in general waste they will take longer to biodegrade and will wreak havoc in the meantime.


Compostable: Products with this label will generally require composting at a commercial composting facility, there they will be exposed to high temperatures to create an organic-rich soil.


Home Compostable: Products labelled “home compostable” will break down in a home-compost bin.


Degradable / oxo-degradable: These products should NOT be disposed of in a composting facility / home compost bin. These products should be put in general waste. Look for how much of the product breaks down, and after how long. These products have no standard for their labelling and may still take 10 years to break down. Chemicals are added to these products to aid in their break down – these smaller “micro plastics” may be even more hazardous to the environment and wildlife.


Bio / Plant-based: The plastic is made from plant materials instead of fossil fuels, but may not necessarily be biodegradable or compostable.


TIPS

  • Look for certification on environmentally friendly products

  • Avoid unnecessary packaging – put those plastic wrapped apples down! Nature has provided it’s very own packaging for most fruits and vegetables. Bring reusable produce bags, or just pop them straight in your basket!

  • Avoid using cling wrap and zip-lock bags when storing leftovers. Instead use reusable containers.

Have any questions? Or have you spotted something in your local supermarket not listed above? Shoot us an e-mail and we’ll endeavour to shed light on your consumer queries, and share in with the Envi community.

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