Tag Archives: greenwashing

Is Plastic Recycling Greenwashing?

We all have household bins in our homes and local councils encourage us to recycle to a point where we are shamed for not recycling, especially when it comes to plastic.

As consumers, we are told and expect our plastics to be taken away and recycled into new packaging and this is a big reason many of us recycle where we can. We all want to do our best for the environment and we trust what we are being told.

But I do wonder whether plastic recycling is a form of greenwashing.

According to Greenpeace, “Thousands of tonnes of our household plastic packaging put out for recycling, as well as other kinds of plastic waste ends up in waste incinerators in the UK” and there is a lot that is sent overseas which ends up being someone else’s problem.

Something that has bothered me for a while is the marketing from big corporations, businesses and supermarkets on recycling…the responsibility has been placed solely on the consumer.

And they’ve been very clever with it.

If we, as consumers, don’t recycle, how can the big company actually recycle the single-use plastic? The responsibility has fallen on us but bears no mention of fixing the issue at the source.

Companies such as TerraCycle are trying to do what they can but even they have admitted in the past that it’s not really a solution to our plastic issue.

Over the last few years, more and more zero waste shops have been popping up in town centres and following a refill station trial at a store in Leeds, Asda have decided to roll it out to another four stores.

Source: Asda

I genuinely don’t know why it’s taking so long for supermarkets to catch up. It seems like they’re really reluctant to move with the times. It’s so obvious that giving consumers options like this will dramatically reduce single-use packaging.

I do think householders still should recycle but the key is legislation. The UK government introduced a 5p charge on plastic carrier bags, before the charge was introduced in October 2015, the number of plastic bags used was 7.6 billion bags, in 2019-2020 it was reduced to 564 million.

This is proof that government intervention really does make a difference but the UK government seem really slow to make a meaningful change to push the responsibility back to manufacturers and corporations.

There are certain foods like rice and pasta which are packaged in plastic. I really don’t know why and I can’t seem to find an answer. It shouldn’t be cheaper to buy a plastic bag of fruit or vegetables than buying loose fruit or veg – that’s insane but I still see it. Maybe teaching school children the basics on growing some of their own food would be a good idea, but I guess that’s not how businesses make money.

If you would like to get started with sustainable living, check out my 30-day eco challenge.

The Big Plastic Count

Last week, I took part in The Big Plastic Count.

The founders of this fabulous initiative is Greenpeace and Everyday Plastic asking households to take part investigating how much plastic is used for a period of one week – 16-22 May 2022.

By collating all this data, they can provide the government evidence that more needs to be done with tackling single-use plastic.

At the time of writing this blog, over 188k people had signed up and it wasn’t just households, schools, community groups and businesses we also included to participate.

The layout of the form is clear and it’s easy to identify where the information needs to be logged.

After a week, I was surprised.

I’ve noticed that the number of fruit and veg trays I buy is a lot more than I usually used to. I have recently kept an eye out and started buying more yellow sticker foods (reduced), especially fruit.

When the weather is really nice, I do prefer to eat more fruit but despite attempting to buy fruit loose, there are some fruits that you can’t buy loose; Strawberries, blackberries, green and red grapes.

I have a bit of a crisps problem! I love crisps but the empty packet…not so much! I have attempted to make my own crisps but I can’t seem to get the knack of it. They come out as if they’ve been sitting around for a week. yuk. I haven’t given up, though. I will keep trying to find something that works for me.

Bread bags is another one. I do have bread bags but I’m glad I buy most of my fruit without packaging so this figure was quite low.

All in all, it is a really good exercise to determine how much plastic we are using in our households and thinking about how it can be reduced.

I know it can be hard seeing the results and thinking that you expected it to be better. Remember, you are doing your best, which is a million times better than not doing anything at all.

I’m just about to submit my results, it would be great to see the results from this.

I realised this was similar to the household waste analysis I created quite a while ago, If you’re looking to start reducing your household waste, check out the free download

Steps to Sustainable Living in Your Home

I’m in the process of launching something I’m really excited about. A guide called Steps to Sustainable Living in Your Home.

Since I started this blog in January 2020, I’ve learned so much about sustainable living, a lot of which, I have adapted into my own lifestyle.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not perfect, I’m still learning everyday and one person’s vision of sustainable living doesn’t always necessarily compare to someone else’s vision.

I remember at the beginning I was trying to change so many things in one go and found it so overwhelming. I wanted to live plastic-free, look at everything I was buying, only buy locally because the carbon footprint will be lower, companies I buy from and their view on sustainability, clothes that were environmentally friendly and so on.

What I quickly realised is that, by trying to do everything in one go, I wasn’t doing anything well. I was trying to change a habit I’ve had for the last 40 years in a short period of time, and I failed miserably.

I decided to take a step back and pick on one thing.

Looking back on where I am now from where I was, I realised how difficult it was to get information. Of course, the internet is jam packed with a wealth of information, but it’s knowing where to look and whether it’s reliable too.

I wish I had somewhere to start from; a guide, a handbook, a manual, something to steer me in the direction I wanted to go.

This was the reason I wrote Steps to Sustainable Living in Your Home. To be able to give you the chance to start your mission into sustainable living without the confusion and overwhelm I had. To pass on what I have learned so far, give you guidance on where to look for information about clothing materials and toxins found in cleaning products, what recycling symbols mean and what greenwashing actually is.

I’m not a scientist or an environmental professional, I am someone who is looking to help others live sustainably based on what I’ve learned so far.

Since the start, there’s something that has always come back to me:

I’m not sure if I heard it somewhere or if I came up with it myself, but I always say this to people.

So, you’re probably wondering, what’s in this guide?

 8 sections – Introduction, Household Waste, Cleaning, Kitchen, Bathroom, Fashion, Carbon Footprint, Conclusion
 13 accompanying PDF downloads
 Editable PDF downloads, no need to print them off
 Introduction videos for each section
 Lifetime access
  Work through the course in your own time

How much is the guide?

The full price of this guide will be £57. That’s it, less than a full tank of fuel.

To register your interest, please sign up below and you will be the first to hear when Steps to Sustainable Living in Your Home will go live.

Greenwashing – What is it and why it’s a problem

Greenwashing is a real problem. More and more products are on sale with packaging splashed in various shades of green with environmental imagery. Ever wondered why?

The definition of greenwashing – When a company (and their product) claim they are doing more to protect the environment than they actually are.

In 2020, Break Free From Plastic produced their Brand Audit Report 2020 and it’s grim reading. Page 30 of the report lists the top 10 worst polluters

1. Coca Cola (Coca Cola, Fanta, Sprite)

2. Pepsico (Pepsi, Doritos, Lay’s)

3. Nestle (Nescafe, KitKat, Nestea)

4. Unilever (Persil, Sunsilk, Cornetto)

5. Mondelēz (Oreo, Cadbury, LU)

6. Mars (M&Ms, Wrigley, Snickers)

7. P&G (Tampax, Ariel, Pantene)

8. Philip Morris International (Parliament, Marlboro, Merit)

9. Colgate Palmolive (Colgate, Palmolive, Ajax)

10. Perfetti Van Melle (Mentos, Chupa Chups, Alpenliebe)

Of course, you will recognise quite a few on the list and probably use them regularly. Some you may not have heard of the parent company but recognise the brands under their umbrella.

Changes in packaging

Recently, many brands have started incorporating the colour green into their packaging (if it wasn’t there already) and are including key words like ‘eco’ or ‘biodegradable’ hoping to appeal to the eco conscious market. This gives the consumer the impression that this product has been made with the environment in mind and is environmentally friendly. But that isn’t always the case. Greenwashing!

Sadly, because of these practices mean some companies are not being completely truthful in their marketing.

Let’s explore an example of greenwashing

Below is an example that really got to me recently. I can see they are trying but, in my opinion, they haven’t got it quite right.

My five-year-old loves crafting so we go through quite a bit of clear tape, I’ve been looking at environmentally friendly alternatives and saw this in the shop.

First thing to notice is all the words and images expected if you are eco conscious – ‘zero plastic’, ‘plant-based’ and they’ve got an image of the earth and a leaf. Thus, giving us the impression it’s environmentally friendly.

How can you dispose of this?

Because I was intrigued, I had a look at the product information for this product online. Look more closely to the below screenshot

The key sentence – ‘is biodegradable in an industrial composting plant‘.

This product is sold in a box and its core are easily recyclable and it’s great the tape is biodegradable, however, only if the tape is placed in an industrial composting plant. How does it get there in the first place? Do you separate your rubbish into a box for ‘industrial composting plant’? No? It’s OK, I don’t either. So, where do you think it will end up instead?

An equally important aspect was this article I came across published in 2020 in The Guardian, it appears there are only 53 of these industrial composting facilities in the UK.

What to look out for

  • Key buzzwords like ‘green’ or ‘natural’ or ‘eco’ – there aren’t any strict regulations on what these are.
  • Packaging with images of the planet, leaves, plants and a lot of green.
  • Do your research – lookout for approved seal logos on their packaging. In order to use these logos, the company would have to follow very strict guidelines in their practices.
  • For example, can all of it be recycled kerbside? Look out for terms such as ‘recycled in an industrial composting plant’ as there aren’t many in the UK.

In spite of this, there are a lot of companies out there are trying to do their best for the environment, they key is to do your research and buy sensibly.