All the time I'm being told how much wasteful packaging we use these days. Well, that's garbage.
The average US household generates about a third less trash each year than the average household in Mexico. The average US trash can is full of packaging, while the average Mexican one – like the average British one or forty years ago – is full of animal and vegetable food waste.
Intensive packaging actually produces less waste. Buy a fresh whole chicken and you end up with about a kilogram of stuff you can't use. Buy processed chicken in about fifteen grams of packaging and there's no waste at all – almost all of the chicken that you don't want to eat is processed into pet food and other products. The same is true of fruit and vegetables.
And why be ashamed of carrying out your processed chicken in a plastic bag? Plastic bags use 40% less energy and generate 80% less solid waste than paper ones. Plastic bags are a quarter of the thickness they were when we started using them in the mid-1970s. They use hardly any oil, and recycling a kilo of plastic takes just 10% of the energy used to recycle a kilo of paper. Paper bags produce 50 times more water pollution. Recycling paper uses bleaches and other nasty industrial chemicals, remember.
And yet the humble, useful plastic bag is on the way out because politicians, for the best of intentions but the worst of reasons, are intimidating supermarkets into scrapping them. Now: which is the real rubbish?