The High Price of Cheap Plastic
Packaging alternatives do exist: ‘However, there have been cases in which alternative, competitive packaging materials were available but were not used by the packaging companies due to minor cost factors,’ reports Günter. Ultimately, the price of plastic is believed to be the key factor: ‘Conventional plastic packaging is significantly cheaper than other packaging.’ Why is that? ‘There are 2 significant reasons why conventional plastics are cheap: firstly, plastics are made using the raw materials of oil and chemicals, which have been very cheap for decades and available in abundance, and, secondly, the manufacturing processes have been optimised ever since the 1950s to the extent that plastic can now be produced very efficiently and at very low cost,’ explains the expert.
However, he warns us that the perceived benefits of plastic are deceptive. At the end of the day, he believes the consequences and costs for us which result from plastic waste and the disposal of plastics to be disproportionately high. ‘To be honest, I would even say that the subsequent costs for the environment and our health are incalculable,’ adds Günter. Other reasons for plastic packaging often still being popular include consumer expectations. ‘People often won’t buy fruit and vegetables any more if the products have even the slightest bit of damage or deviate from the standards we are used to,’ comments Günter. Does this mean we primarily need to work on our attitudes as end consumers too?
Time for Change
The expert considers it to be important to rethink and improve the established systems initially. ‘And that can definitely be achieved,’ notes Bernd Günter with confidence. For him and his colleagues at geht ohne e.V., which has its headquarters in Hamburg, it is clear that reducing waste does not start with packaging but, rather, with change and constant development in our lifestyles and consumer behaviour. ‘This presents us all with opportunities and challenges.’ The zero waste approach is an example of this.