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May 21, 2018  |  Login

Buy products with less packaging

Use your purchasing power: reduce waste by buying products with less packaging

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Everything we buy seems to come in disposable packaging—but that doesn’t mean we have to accept it. By simply choosing products that use less packaging and recyclable packaging, you can make a big impact.

Packaging has increased dramatically over the last half century and now makes up the largest share of municipal solid waste (MSW). Even if Americans were recycling everything they could today, there would remain packaging materials—namely certain plastics—for which there are few or no established recycling programs, leaving you no choice but to toss it in the garbage.

The vast majority of recycling programs only accept PET (type 1) and HDPE (type 2) beverage containers. This means that types 3-7, including yogurt tubs, condiment bottles, shampoo bottles, etc. are tossed into landfills by the billions every day. When you can, choose recyclables—and recycle them—instead.  Learn more about recycling codes at our plastic guide.


Take Action / Next Steps

Evaluate a product’s packaging using these simple questions
– Is it without packaging or minimally packaged?
– Is the packaging marked as containing recycled material?
– Is the packaging material readily recyclable (i.e. aluminum, steel, glass, unwaxed paper, PET or HDPE plastic.)?

Reuse packaging: Containers, such as yogurt tubs, can be great for storage. Read up on safe plastic use.

Use bulk food stations where you can fill reusable containers with grocery items from nuts and grains to cooking oils.

Encourage producer responsibility:
– Request that suppliers reduce packaging and use packaging that is compostable, recycled or recyclable. Read about the move towards eco-packaging .
– Support Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) initiatives such as the National Beverage Producer Responsibility Act of 2003, S. 1867

Reduce takeout packaging by setting a goal to pack lunches and eat meals at home more often. When you do take-out, refuse the chopsticks and napkins and use your own.


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Did You Know?

Click below for more facts about this tip.


1. US EPA. Municipal and Industrial Solid Waste Division. Office of Solid Waste. [18 October 2006] Municipal Solid Waste in the United States: Facts and Figures. Executive Summary. Available from: [4 December 2007]

2. US EPA. [undated] “Solid Waste Combustion/Incineration.” Available from: [4 December 2007]

3. Power Scorecard. [undated] “Electricity from Municipal Solid Waste.” Available from: [5 December 2007]

4. Agricultural and Biological Engineering Department, Florida Cooperative Extension Service, Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, University of Florida. [September 2002] Berger, Kenneth R. “Consumer Choices Can Reduce Packaging Waste.” Available from: [5 December 2007]
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