Single use glass packaging is just silly. Glass is the ideal material to be used over and over, but look at any grocery store shelf and you’ll see aisles of glass meant to be used once. Pickles, pasta sauce, mustard, and peanut butter often come in glass with a one-time sealed lid. I keep a few around to reuse, but honestly, what do they expect me to do with them all? Recycle them?
Very few recycling programs in Saskatchewan accept glass any more, and with good reason. Glass makes complete sense to reuse but not to recycle. Its pretty rare for Saskatchewan glass to be recycled back into bottles -- the few facilities in Canada that do that are far away. Instead, at best, it gets downcycled. The best downcycling, such as SARCAN’s glass, get made into reflective paint coating or sandblasting material. At worst, it gets collected and put in the landfill because it is too broken and mixed in with other materials.
So if recycling isn’t a great option, what next? You move on up the 3R’s hierarchy to Reduce and Reuse. Here are three simple ways to avoid buying glass packaging in the first place:
1) Make your own drinks: It makes so little sense to buy a drink like iced tea in a one-time-use glass bottle. Whenever I can, I plan ahead and bring my own drinks – mostly I keep it simple and just bring water, but sometimes I get fancy with chilled teas and the like.
The only beverage containers in SK that currently get re-used are brown beer bottles from a Brewer’s Distributors shareholder like Labatt or Molson. There was a time where there were local bottling plants in Saskatchewan for more than just beer. They gave way to lighter packaging like aluminum and plastic. It will be interesting to see if returnable glass makes a come-back. There is a fresh-pressed juice bar across the street from our office that offers a discount when you return their bottles, which are washed and refilled.
2) Fill your own reusable glass jars: At the rate my kids plow through peanut butter, I can only reuse so many of the jars. Recently I tried out something new to me and bought bulk peanut butter in my own reusable glass jar. I’ve been meaning to try it out for ages, but hadn’t found the motivation…until I needed to write this blog. A local health food store sells bulk peanuts and has a grinding machine that turns them into fresh peanut butter. It’s delicious! Now that I’ve done it once, I will definitely be going back.
3) Try out home canning or fermenting: I can avoid buying one-time use jars by making my own pickles. I buy a few pickling cucumbers in the fall and make naturally fermented pickles for my kiddos. They are super easy to make and I prefer the taste to commercial ones. And I can reuse any mason jar or hinged top jar that I already own. This is the recipe that gets rave reviews from my kids.Try out the recipe I use here. We have also been known to make our own canned tomatoes, salsa and sauerkraut.
I don’t think its practical to make everything yourself these days, but I am excited by the opportunities that I keep finding to make a few key things that reduce the amount of waste I make – including what I have to send for recycling.
Is there something you always buy in glass jars that you just can’t see a way around getting that way? Comment below, I’d love to see if we can come up with alternatives!