The latest report by Zero Waste Scotland suggests that Scots are unwittingly spending hundreds of millions of pounds on single-use packaging further contributing to the climate emergency. Scottish shoppers are now being made aware of the obscured financial costs and harmful impact on the environment through the use of single-use packaging when they purchase everyday products.
Cost is concealed
The research by Zero Waste Scotland found that Scottish shoppers collectively purchase in excess of 300,000 tonnes of single-use packaging every year. The amount spent annually by all Scottish households on all the packaging is about £600 million. That amount is concealed within the overall price of their groceries. To make matters worse the Scottish pay approximately £40 million each year to cover the local authority costs of collecting and managing all of that single-use packaging after it has been disposed.
Huge quantity of carbon emissions
That quantity of single-use packaging yields about 650,000 tonnes of carbon emissions each year which is about the equivalent of 4 million car journeys between Aberdeen and London. Zero Waste Scotland is trying to emphasise the benefits consumers could obtain from alternative ‘packaging free’ stores which allow them to bring their own containers and fill them with items ranging from past to cleaning products.
Packaging considered part of the product
A spokesperson for Zero Waste Scotland says it is easy to think of packaging as part of the product rather than a product in its own right. The reality is when someone buys 500ml of shampoo, they are also purchasing the bottle but the cost of that bottle is not obvious. Packaging is clearly not free and when its cost is added up the average consumer spends an awful lot on single-use packaging. That is not simply a cost for consumers but a cost placed upon the environment.
Packaging must be recognised as a product
The spokesperson adds that packaging in it of itself is not bad, but consumers must recognise that it is a product and like all products consumers have the ability to make more informed decisions about whether it is worth the cost, if the cost is made obvious before purchasing it. If consumers were aware of what they paid for packaging, the research indicates they would prefer to purchase unpackaged products and reusable packaging options regardless of their attitude towards sustainability.
Price signaling would encourage manufacturers and retailers to discover methods of eliminating single-use packaging which would end up reducing costs for consumers and delivering environmental benefits. The report was released amidst growing worries regarding the cost to consumers and the environment of unnecessary single-use packaging. A recent BBC documentary series titled “War on Plastic” showed that when consumers in the UK sought to avoid plastic waste by purchasing their fruit and veg loose ended up being charged far more for their produce without packaging than the same bundle that was sold in packaged form.