At ITL Health, we take our role in sustainability very seriously. As the anti-plastic movement gains traction, many people are looking for alternatives to plastic, but it is important to know the facts when making buying decisions.
Why use HDPE for your MAG365 Tubs?
We have spent a lot of time studying packaging options, and after much research, we feel that the most environmentally safe option at this time is high-density polyethylene, or HDPE, a strong and durable food-grade plastic that can readily be re-purposed into many household items. Many people consider Tupperware to be one of the greatest containers ever made, and not surprisingly it is made of HDPE. HDPE plastic is not only food safe, but it's very hard-wearing and does not break down under exposure to sunlight or extremes of heating or freezing.
While our tubs are made of HDPE, our lids are created from LDPE, or low-density polyethylene. This plastic is very similar in composition, and recycles just as easily, but it a is softer and more flexible polyethylene, which makes it easier to get the lid off your tub of MAG365.
As Susan Selke, director of the school of packaging at Michigan State University explains, “In many cases plastics are actually better for the environment than the alternatives. It is surprising until you look closely at it.”
How does HDPE/LDPE differ from single use plastics?
It is important to make the distinction between HDPE/LDPE and single use plastics, which are items that are only used once before recycling or throwing away, including bags, straws, utensils, beverage bottles, feminine hygiene products and most food packaging.
Worldwide, we produce more than 300 million tons of plastic, half of which are single use items. Collectively only about 11% of plastic items are recycled, which is in part because many recyclable items are not being recycled. The bigger issue, however, is that most of the hundreds of millions of tons of plastic every year cannot be recycled even if you want to do your part. And the nature of petroleum-based disposable plastic makes it difficult to recycle, often requiring virgin materials and chemicals added to make it viable.
Not only are these toxic chemicals being found in our blood stream, but plastic was found in the feces of 100% of the test volunteers of a small study done by the University of Vienna and the Environment Agency Austria. The toxins in plastic are known as endocrine disruptors, and this can lead to a litany of health ailments including cancer, infertility, suppressed immunity, birth defects, osteoporosis, autoimmune diseases and more.
Plastic is not necessarily the enemy, but rather what kinds of plastic items we are using, and how we are disposing of them. Our research shows that polyethylene plastic holds a small carbon footprint compared to other options such as glass, especially when recycled.
Why don't you use glass jars for MAG365?
Glass jars are much more impactful on the environment than plastic as they use more resources to manufacture. They are also heavier to ship, which uses up to 40% more energy, producing more carbon dioxide pollution and increasing transportation costs five fold. Single use glass bottles cause the most environmental damage including global warming, according to the January 2012 issue of International Journal of Lifecycle Assessment. This report states that you must reuse a glass bottle three times to lower its carbon footprint to roughly that of a single use plastic beverage bottle. However, if the plastic bottle gets recycled, you must reuse it 20 times to achieve a comparable carbon footprint.
Furthermore, making glass requires sand, and there is an alarming yet little known epidemic of sand shortage, which is leading to the illegal mining of our beaches and lakes, and even destroying entire islands. Removing sand by the hundreds of thousands of tonnes per day is leading to erosion, destruction of marine life habitats and coral reef, and death for anyone who dares to speak out against the "sand mafias." No one knows the extent of the damage to the environment largely because sand extraction is happening in isolated places, with little research being done.
What about other alternatives to glass or plastic?
We are continuing to research other packaging solutions to make sure that we are leaving as small of a carbon footprint as we can, however, many options won't work for our type of product when we look at the big picture. As Eliot Whittington, policy program director at the University of Cambridge’s Institute for Sustainability Leadership states, “It is not as simple as ‘plastic is bad’ so let’s use something else.” We have to make sure the alternative is viable and sustainable as well.
For instance, if we used paper, it would need to be lined with wax which renders it unrecyclable, and if we use biodegradable bags, most of them have a short shelf life, resulting in wasted product which also contributes to our carbon footprint. Additionally, food safety is of utmost importance, which necessitates including additional materials into the packaging that are not great for the environment or the end user. That said, we are optimistic about the future as there are continually more options to explore as scientific advances are made.
Why don't you sell in bulk to support the Zero Waste movement?
We would love to offer this and are ready to execute bulk buying options, however, we have found retailers are not quite on board yet. We encourage you to speak with your local stockist regarding bulk supplements to show them there is a market for zero waste options. Together we can make a difference! In the meantime, we encourage you to purchase your MAG365 in 300 gram tubs to reduce your carbon footprint.
Can you recycle your MAG365 tubs?
Absolutely, and we encourage you to do so. This is an important step to reducing our collective carbon footprint as consumers.
Both HDPE and LDPE are accepted at most recycling centres across the world, as it is one of the easiest plastic polymers to recycle. Most recycling companies will collect polyethylene products and take these to large facilities to be repurposed.
HDPE and LDPE containers are widely accepted at recycling centers because recycling these materials can reduce the cost of products made from these plastics.
What are the environmental benefits of recycling HDPE/LDPE?
Recycling HDPE and LDPE has many benefits. For example, it is more cost efficient to produce a product from recycled polyethylene than it is to manufacture virgin plastic.
Polyethylene is the most commonly recycled plastic and is considered one of the safest forms of plastic. It is a relatively simple and cost-effective process to recycle HDPE and LDPE plastic for secondary use.
What happens to my MAG365 tub once it’s recycled?
Most polyethylene products are recycled and repurposed into many new products, including but not limited to the following:
- Pipe fittings
- Chopping Boards
- Recycling bins
What bin should I use to recycle my MAG365 tubs?
The dry mixed recyclable bins (generally green or blue) can take a range of materials including polyethylene. So, pop your empty MAG365 tubs into your clean dry recycle bin and know that your tubs will be recycled and repurposed accordingly.
How else can I help the environment?
The biggest issue we face today is over consumption. In a world where we are used to convenience and cheap throwaway items, we have the power to help simply by being conscious of what we buy. While recycling is important, it is only the tip of the iceberg. As Matt Wilkins, a postdoctoral researcher at Vanderbilt University's Center for Science Outreach, so eloquently put it, "Recycling plastic is to saving the Earth what hammering a nail is to halting a falling skyscraper." In other words, though you feel good about doing it, your effort is entirely inadequate, and distracts from the real problem of why the skyscraper is falling to begin with.
The truth is that the problem is not as black and white as we may think. For instance, a life cycle assessment report put out by the UK Environment Agency found that in order to make a reusable cotton bag's global warming potential less than that of a disposable carrier bag, you would have to use it 131 times. And when comparing a stainless steel water bottle production to that of a single use plastic bottle, it requires seven times as much fossil fuel, releases 14 times more greenhouse gasses, utilizes metal extraction resources several hundreds times over, and causes hundreds of times the amount of toxic risk to humans and ecosystems, meaning you have to use it for years to justify the carbon footprint it leaves.
Beyond that, the problem lies in the management of waste and recycling, and perhaps the single biggest way we can all contribute is being an advocate for change by lobbying our governments and decision makers to have better systems in place for diverting waste from landfills. We have a voice, and if we use our time to make ourselves heard, our efforts far exceed that of bringing our own utensils, refusing a straw, or shopping in bulk. Putting our efforts into demanding better management of waste, better recycling practices, and less consumption of single use plastic will ultimately be better for the earth than banning plastics like HDPE and LDPE.
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