Thursday, October 25, 2007

Food for thought on products and packaging

One of the first things about which I caution our Behind the Scenes course participants each year is that they may complete the course with more questions than when they began. No, that’s not a typo – not only might the number of questions increase, but the answers may vary depending on the angle of approach.

Revisiting the paper versus plastic question, for example… Going sans bag, or bringing your own reusable one, comes out on top. But, what if you accept a paper bag at the checkout, and then use that bag to bundle your paper recyclables for collection? Or, what if you need plastic bags to line your trash can, or to clean up after your pet? Could it actually be advisable to take a plastic bag at the store, knowing that you’ll reuse it?

What about single-serving containers? What if the multi-serving size of a product uses less packaging overall? Is that a better option? But, what if you were considering the single-serving package because you’d use it all while it was fresh, versus possibly having some of the product in the larger package spoil before you used it?

If you have a choice of plastic tubs or metal cans, which is better? The metal can would be accepted in our program, while the plastic tub would not. But, what if the product in the metal can is more expensive? Would you still purchase it?

Does one type of packaging weigh more than the other? How does that affect the transportation costs of the product?

What factors make up your personal criteria for making product and packaging decision - raw material sourcing? energy usage? water usage? transportation costs? disposal and/or recyclability? potential for reuse? others?

Just some food for thought…

(Posted as our contribution to Blog Action Day)