Packaging Labels: You can’t always believe what you read

Day 175 – When it comes to being an informed consumer, it can feel like a full time job. Countless labels to read and information scrolled out over packaging can get to be a little overwhelming. Thankfully, the people over at Earth911 has taken the time to let us know what we should be reading and what information is important to know.

Here are a few labels to consider when shopping.

  1. The expiration or sell-by-dates on packaging – Unless it’s deli meat, soft cheeses or infant formula, many food items are still good after the expiration date. Throwing out perfectly good food is a serious problem in this country. Do a little investigating before you start tossing out food. You may be surprised to find that there is nothing wrong with it.
  2. Certified labels vs. generic terms – On Day 74, I listed numerous labels that could be trusted on your food and products. They were items with certifications that met a variety of different standards. Unfortunately, many manufacturers use words like “natural” or “sustainable”. More times than not this a form of greenwashing. They make you think their product is environmentally friendly, when in fact it is not.
  3. Packaging without recycling symbols – On Day 127, I tried to make sense of all the numbers and symbols found on packaging and explain if they could be recycled. Sadly, some manufacturers do not put any symbols on their products making it very difficult to know if it can be recycled. If you have packaging without a number/symbol ask questions before throwing it away. Don’t assume it can not be recycled.
  4. Try to purchase items that are easily identified as being recyclable – When it comes to aluminum, glass, tin cans, cardboard and paper, we can all agree that these items are easily identified as being recyclable. When we get into the plastics it becomes a guessing game at times. Ways to avoid this problem is to avoid purchasing products in plastic. If you can not avoid plastic, than look for companies that use the How2Recycle label. They have taken out the guess work by using clear instructions on their labels on how to recycle the packaging. They include information on preparing a package for effective recycling; how widely recycling is available for the type of package; which category of material the package belongs to; and which part of the package the symbol refers to.

So, the next time you’re in the grocery store think about the items you are purchasing. Do you have a plan for that packaging when it’s empty? Do you know if it can be recycled? Or will it end up in the landfill? These are all questions we should be asking and we should be supporting companies that are helping us navigate the tricky situation of recyclability.

Tomorrow, hydroponics in your home.

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