photo of plastic garbage

What to do about Plastic Packaging?

Hi Sam, lately I have been getting so frustrated by the amount of packaging, and especially plastic goods, that end up in my trash can.  It feels overwhelming and like there aren’t many solutions, what can I do?


Hi Yia, 

I understand that the amount of packaging and unrecyclable plastic is concerning to you as it is to so many of us. Your question comes at a great time as we just received a $10,000 grant from Hennepin County to provide a series of educational events around living a low waste lifestyle. This fall we’ll begin with a screening and discussion of the documentary Plastic Wars on October 4 and then follow up with two workshops: Reduce Your Packaging Waste in November and Transitioning to a Zero Waste Lifestyle: Bulk Shopping on December 1. Each of these events will help equip you with the information you need to reduce your packaging waste and event attendees will have the chance to win unpaper towels, reusable storage containers, and gift cards to bulk shopping stores. Learn more at  

In the meantime, if you’re ready to get started, I’ve listed some ways to begin decreasing your waste below.  One of the first things that you can do is to look for items that do not have as much packaging. However, as we know this can be difficult with many items. Recycling is the easiest way to cut down on trash. When recycling it is important to look at the number in the middle of your chasing arrows (the recycle symbol), because not all plastic is recycled in our area and ends up in the landfill. In the Minneapolis area our recycling centers are only able to take plastics #1, #2, and #5 with their caps on. They recycle the following:

·       Water, soda and juice bottles.

·       Milk and juice jugs.

·       Ketchup and salad dressing bottles.

·       Dishwashing and laundry soap bottles and jugs.

·       Shampoo, soap and lotion bottles.

There are certain colors of plastics that aren’t taken, such as black, brown, and green. These are mostly associated with take out containers from restaurants and gardening containers. 

Some action items that you can do are to ask restaurants if they are willing to utilize your containers if you bring them in and you can also ask them if they might be willing to move to more ecologically friendly or compostable containers. You may also consider saving your containers from nursery plants to use for replanting or you may return them to the nurseries, as they will reuse them for following seasons plants. 

When grocery shopping an easy way to cut down on plastic waste is to purchase items that are sold in bulk and to bring your own grocery and produce bags. Reusing bags is another great option as well. Grocery Co-ops are a great place to learn about shopping in bulk as they tend to have large bulk purchase areas and employees who are familiar with how the process works and willing to assist with questions. We also have two great zero waste stores in South Minneapolis: Zero(ish) and Tare Market that are worth checking out. These stores focus on reducing your waste impact with package free items and refill stations for items such as household cleaners, bath and body products, and products for children and pets.

We as consumers have the power to make decisions that ultimately affect the marketplace. Some options to empower yourselves to make a difference on this topic include:

·      Choose to not buy certain items that have a large amount of plastic packaging. 

·      Talk to your friends about the impact of plastic waste to bring visibility to the subject. 

·      Contact companies or businesses to ask them to change their packaging as they are driven by consumer feedback  

·      Contact your local and state representatives to draft legislation that takes an aim at packaging waste. 

We hope to see you at some of our low waste events coming up this fall for even more information and resources!

Sustainability Sam