By guest writer Izzy Woods
Seriously, is there anything more irritating than seeing someone throw their litter on the ground? It’s hard to think of anything more annoying than someone unwrapping a sandwich, and throwing the packaging on the grass and tucking into their lunch. People who eat whilst walking down the road are often the worst culprits. Unwrap, throw, chomp. It beggars belief that at some point in their childhood the simple message‘Put your rubbish in the bin’ did not occur. It seems so basic, so fundamental and so anti-social not to can your trash that it leaves normally socialised people at a bit of a loss. It’s lovely to eat outside, even when you just want a lazy day on the couch. There is something about the sunshine and outdoors that draws us, whatever we had planned. There is nothing wrong with eating al fresco. But, equally, there must be some way to stop the spread of lunchtime litter and save the planet at the same time.
Packaging Waste – A Eco Nightmare
What is considerably worse than seeing this crime against decency is the effect that discarded rubbish has on the landscape. Even if food chains like McDonald’s have finally bowed to environmental pressure and banned the use of foam in food packaging, there still remain a huge number of coffee shops and fast food outlets who use it. Foam does not biodegrade. Ever. It is one of the most resilient materials imaginable. Their manufacture uses large quantities of harmful chemicals and their production is a terrible source of land and sea pollution. Landfill is becoming a major concern for government, as nobody really wants a site next door to them, but the volume of waste we produce means that landfill sites are needed as never before. 75% of waste goes into landfill sites in the United States. The rest is either burned or recycled. That’s a low rate of recycling, and the balance has to change. You would think that items of packaging that are put into landfill for a long time would ‘compost down’, breaking down fully and returning some organic benefit to the earth. Apparently this is not so, or the final breaking down of the cardboard packaging takes so long as to be a headache in itself. It can take decades for even paper and cardboard to decompose fully in landfill sites, because ideal composting conditions do not exist. The scale of the operation is so large that microbes cannot work properly, as they do in your garden composter.
Do Your Bit With A Litterless Lunch
Of course the ideal situation is not to have any food in packaging at all, or at least use containers that can be washed and reused over and over. The idea of the satisfyingly alliterative ‘Litterless Lunch’ is a splendid one, and is taking off in workplaces and schools across the country. Whilst old ice-cream tubs do a turn, it is human nature to look for something jollier, and altogether more stylish, and eco-manufacturers have stepped up to the mark and supplied the market with a great array of beautifully designed products for you and your family to choose from. The range of colours and patterns on Velcro-sealed wrapping mats is astonishing, with something to suit all tastes. Children, it seems, are the focus of much of this change in culture towards packaging, and this is particularly encouraging. When children grow up without the expectation of food packaging they are less likely to demand it as adult consumers. It is likely that eco-consumers are tapping into the ‘lunch-box cool’ market, which used to centre around what type of chocolate biscuit you had, but these days is more likely to be the colour of your pack and wrap. This is a superb development. With long-lasting and easily washable wraps, there is no need for wastage. The Snack Taxi pouches are another great innovation, and do away with the need for nasty chemicals, or heavy metals, phthalates, PBBs, and PBDEs. Stainless steel is another new chic litterless lunchtime addition. Virtually indestructible, you will never need another lunch container again, with boxes and containers to suit any lunchtime requirement, from salads to sandwiches. More manly, perhaps, than the beautiful, brightly coloured lunch sacks, you could send any chap off to work with a leak-proof, stainless steel meal pack in his briefcase, and he would actually enjoy using it.
When you think lunch, think litterless. You will be joining a growing group of green thinkers who are changing the planet one sandwich at a time.