In today’s modern economy, products such as candies, chocolates, granola bars and other goods – including produce and manufactured merchandise – are heavily packaged in plastic, tin foil and paper wrappings along with the plastic or paper bags they are distributed in.
Along with the plastic bags in which they are distributed, products like candy, chocolate, granola bars, manufactured merchandise and even produce are heavily packaged in plastic, tin foil and paper.
These new ways of packaging stock to ensure the product’s wholeness, freshness and sanitation have increased the extent of harmful waste in the environment. This is not a new issue; nevertheless, it should be addressed perpetually until the current amount of garbage production is decreased.
When I went to Guatemala earlier this year –– a country that ranks next to Bolivia for having the largest indigenous population in the Americas –– I was able to see a more traditional and green method of selling commodities.
For example, on Lake Atitlan, indigenous women use banana or palm leaves to wrap produce like fresh strawberries or black berries. Candies are sold without wrappings. Similarly, in Antigua and other cities in Guatemala, vendors sell maize at the local marketplace with lime and salt, which are typically sold folded in leaves in a little packet.
In addition, Guatemala’s most common specialty, tamales –– corn meal mixed with black beans, pork or chicken –– are vended to customers wrapped in leaves.
Moreover, there are even some salespeople who make their living by selling banana or palm leaves to customers who need the leaves for packaging items or gift-wrapping.
Consequently, there is a minimal usage of cardboard boxes or plastics at the local marketplace; instead, baskets are used for storing fruits and vegetables. This can be considered another good method of preserving the environment.
Since there is almost no product packaging, and food spoils faster when exposed to fresh air than when heavily packaged, the product freshness is detected immediately. As a result, people there eat fresh food, which is healthier.
In the United States, owing to its geographical location and climate diversity, the use of leaves could not be a solution to the growing problem of wastes — this example may be applicable to first-world countries with strong economies and buying power.
Then, the question still remains: What can we do to resolve the problem of waste? Perhaps the only viable solution to the dilemma would be the usage of biodegradable wrappings instead of plastic, and reduce the amount of packaging for products.
For instance, do we really need to have triple-packaged candies? Candies in every supermarket are folded separately into individual wrappings and then deposited into plastic bags. If it is a gift, the candies are then packaged into fancy boxes, resulting in triple wrappings, which triples the waste produced from consumption.
By visiting less-developed countries like Guatemala, one can get a better idea how to conserve the environment by returning to traditional ways of selling food and unwrapping products. We can then accomplish minimum wastage because of packaging.
With the current state of the environment, it is imperative to return to older methods of preserving produce.
Tira Colakovic is a Maynard, Mass., resident and columnist.