Does Australia have a packaging pandemic?

YourLifeChoices’ 93-year-old columnist Peter Leith is on his soapbox – and with good cause. He’s been to the supermarket and is fuming about our packaging pandemic.


One enters our supermarket through the fresh fruit and veg section.

The fruit and veg are displayed in their naked splendour. Next to them are two more rows of fruit and veg all in plastic bags or vacuum sealed, moulded plastic containers. Individual cucumbers look slightly vulgar clad in skin-tight, clear plastic sheaths. No-one knows why the zucchini lying next to them are naked!

Read more: Friday reflection: Why is packaging so difficult?

The breads look good in their simple plastic or cellophane bags, but the baked goods are ‘tarted up’, in blow-moulded or heat-formed plastic containers.

Every single item is over-packaged

The dairy cases are refreshingly different. Most of its contents have just enough packaging to protect and hold what they contain. The humble egg carton is, in itself, a minor miracle of good, purpose-designed packaging.

The shelves of packaged goods are a mixed lot.

Read more: Things we really should be recycling

As a rule, the staple items seem to be more sensibly packaged. Pasta, breakfast foods, flour, biscuits, fruit juices, dairy and many canned foods are sensibly and economically packaged.

Many canned foods are fit for the job, but some are absurd! A small tin of sardines, with a label on it, inside a printed box, is more packaging material than contents.

The same thing can be said for many of the items on the cosmetics and toiletries shelves.

When you get to the refrigerated and frozen food section you get both the worst and the best.  

Frozen meals are often packed in formed containers containing more packaging material than contents. In the same freezer section, you get a big plastic bag of frozen, mixed vegetables that is, visibly, all vegetables!

Read more: The takeaway food that hurts the planet most

Another general rule here seems to be: If it is new and fancy the chances are it will be overdressed!

Remember the Australian saying: Watch out for mutton dressed up as lamb?

Often, as we are about to pass through the check-out, we buy a bag of garden mulch or bird seed. They are both packaged in simple plastic bags, contain exactly what they say they do and we know that they are fit for their purpose.

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Written by Peter Leith

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