Nicely packaged

by Patricia Collins

Back in the Brownies, I learned to tie a parcel.  One evening we trooped into the church hall with brown paper (brought from home and saved from the last parcel that arrived in the house) and string. After the toadstool gathering, the salute and the promise, we set to on empty cereal packets and shoe boxes with just that brown paper and string, a slip knot, round turns, half hitches and reef knots to finish off.  Oh and scissors – proper sharp scissors and 20 little girls bursting with excitement. At the end of the evening we handed in the scissors and took our parcels home with the reminder to untie them carefully and save the paper and string ‘for next time’. This was the Health and Safety and environmental thinking of the day!

A delivery this week – ALL the plastic you can see is tape

I can still tie a neat parcel, but today I’m back at my desk drawer and pondering the problem of sellotape.  For those outside of England – Scotch tape, sticky tape, plastic adhesive tape. And there you have it.  It’s taken me almost all my post-Brownie years to realise that Sellotape is plastic and in that time I have created a much loved and appreciated collection: double sided tape, parcel tape, masking tape, electrical tape and all in several different widths. All of it plastic, all of it non-biodegradable, all of it potentially harmful to our environment.

It’s New Year and I’m sure I’m not the only one full of good resolutions, but what to do? Return to Brownie skills? Get rid of the collection and how? Or use up this store? 

  • don’t use sellotape to re-seal used envelopes etc. Gummed paper labels and staples do this job well
  • don’t use it to mend books or other paper-based documents. It’s the archivist’s pet hate as it leaves stains and weaknesses that can never be made good . gummed brown paper works well inside book jackets or a very thin piece of bandage pasted on pages
  • don’t make sellotape the first choice- think before reaching for the roll of sticky tape – can the job be done another way?

Are there other ways of lessening my environmental impact? I’d welcome your suggestions. Meantime I’ll remember that Brownie promise ‘do your best’

-oOo-

The Snail’s solution

This thought-provoking post from Patricia arrived on the same day that I received the parcel in the photograph above, from a “green” grocery store. All that plastic tape made me wince. I carefully peeled it off and the cardboard went into the compost, but the tape has to go to landfill, I think. When I am packing a parcel myself, I use paper parcel tape and, increasingly, I see that parcels arrive sealed with this. And, of course, there are marvellous companies who ensure that all their packaging is plastic-fee: All Natural Soap Company and Roasting House are two who are helping me keep my consumption of single-use plastics down, although I know how privileged I am to be in a position to make these choices.

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23 Comments

  1. A very informative post. I had never heard of paper parcel tape. When our traditional parcel tape is gone, this is something I would be interested in using. But is it sticky and strong enough to hold well? I mail books, and I really need a strong tape.

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  2. The perils of sticky backed plastic. I am wondering if you could re-use the tape etc as wadding in a parcel, it doesn’t have to be single use then.

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  3. What’s wrong with good old string? Or a dab of glue? And of course the Japanese have made an art form out of wrapping things in paper with the ends all tucked in, without adhesive of any kind, or using furoshiki (wrapping cloths) for gifts which you then return to the owner, instead of using wrapping paper. It’s possible to buy cellulose sticky packing tape which is biodegradable, but its manufacture requires some fairly heavy-duty chemicals and it’s chock-full of embodied carbon dioxide. Personally, I like paper masking tape…

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    • I know that the British Post Office objects to string these days, sadly. But, like you say paper masking tape works well. I am planning to make some fabric gift bags out of some scraps so that Mr Snail and I can have them to use when we give each other gifts because our much-reused wrapping paper is reaching the end of its life.

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  4. Patricia Collins

     /  January 19, 2019

    Good heavens -‘ the Post Office objects to string’….. that makes me want to go and tie something up for the post immediately. Thanks for introducing me to the paper parcel tape. It’s new to me. And using the scrunched up old tape as wadding in a parcel is inspired. At least it gets used a few more times before it is landfill. What a creative, inspiring space this is.

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  5. Murtagh's Meadow

     /  January 19, 2019

    Excellent ideas from Patrica. I must look out for the paper parcel take. Thank you for sharing.

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  6. I learn how to tie a proper parcel in brown paper at the Brownies too. Thanks for the memories! I had never thought about sticky tape and plastic 😳 and of course there is the dreaded bubble wrap.
    By the way Dr Snail and Patrica, remember your post about glitter? I happened across an article about young women who have made eco friendly glitter ~ from wood shavings? (Am I remembering this right?). As you can tell I have forgotten all the details, but did think how great it was that someone was finding a solution.

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  7. Bio-degradable glitter, made from eucalyptus cellulose
    https://www.threemamas.com.au/shop/eco-glitter

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    • Patricia Collins

       /  January 20, 2019

      Thank you, Anne. This is fascinating. I have heard back from one of the charities selling glittery cards. They had taken the trouble to contact their manufacturers who refer to glitter as flitter! They admit that the flitter makes for problems with re-cycling and said that some authorities could recycle flittery cards, others not. It would put 5p on a pack of cards if they switched to an eco-flitter. The charity has said it will be reviewing its range of cards with the environment in mind.

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      • That’s quite a positive comment from the card company (and good on them for getting back to you). If they are considering eco-flitter then it sounds like it can be bought in bulk. maybe the price of it will come down with demand.
        BTW, is eco-flitter a new word that has just entered our vocabularies!

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  8. I often think this when Sellotape is used, I try to avoid it when packaging items for my business.

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  9. An interesting post. My feeling is that once we already have something, it’s been made and exists. Whatever we do with it, its going to be a problem. So we should use it up, but then find an alternative once it’s finished. But if there’s an argument against that, I’d be interested to hear it and think again.
    There are many things I will never buy again. But it feels wrong to simply dump them without even having made use of them for some purpose or another. Though I would draw the line at say glitter, in that spreading it around would just compound the problem so in that case some kind of careful disposal has to be the answer.

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    • Patricia Collins

       /  January 21, 2019

      Thanks for this, Deborah. I’ve been thinking a lot about how to manage transitions from the things we have to the things we know are better for us and the planet. I agree that dumping stuff we have is not the answer.

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    • Oh, I so agree with you. There seems to be a whole industry set up to get you to buy new stuff and throw away old stuff… now we are told we must have metal sandwich tins and bamboo picnic sets… and supposedly just send all our old things to landfill. It makes me so cross.

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  10. I am so happy when I get a box that’s been taped together with the paper parcel tape since it makes recycling so much easier. Unfortunately, our recycle company fails to remind people to remove the tape from their boxes so I wonder how much cardboard is not being recycled (or how many batches are being ruined) by the plastic tape. Isn’t Washi tape made of paper as well?

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  11. Nope, I didn’t think of sellotape being plastic either. I recently saw a video on wrapping gifts in a bit of fabric instead and I’m very keen to give that a go

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    • I wrapped Mr Snails birthday presents in fabric last year… this year I’m planning to make some fabric gift bags in a variety of sizes for us to use when we give each other presents.

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