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Sachets – The Big Problem in a Few Words

Sachets are small, single-use sealed plastic pouches that contain one portion of a product. The developing world has seen an explosion of them as they are used for everything from seasoning to snacks, even water and milk.


Particularly in Asia, sachets are being sold under the pretext of being pro-poor, in other words, major corporations such as Unilever sell luxury products in small packages at a low unit price to make them more accessible to consumers. In reality, the company is expanding its customer base by imposing the consumption of sachets as the only choice. They are doing more harm to the consumers they are claiming to benefit.


How Sachets Took Over Asia

Prior to the sachet boom, shops measured out tiny portions of basic products for low-income customers who would bring their own containers. Buying this way allowed people to buy only the specific amounts of products they needed, so that nothing was wasted. Known as 'Tingi' culture in the Philippines, this type of buying was common throughout Asia.

Big brands took advantage of this aspect of Asian culture for profit. They introduced single use plastic sachets, leaving the re-use Tingi-style system behind. They have forced consumers to become addicted to sachets – there is hardly any choice any more than for people to buy products in sachets.

These sachets, made of plastic and aluminium are not biodegradable. Some rural communities do not have regular waste collection services and developing countries lack the infrastructure to deal with large amounts of waste.



Corporate Plastic Polluter Unilever Exposed

Unilever has the power and responsibility to create a more socially inclusive and environmentally friendly world. Their ‘solutions’ are backfiring, and other problems are being created in the process.

  • Unilever plans to burn plastic in cement kilns to create energy to power nearby cement plants. Their goal of burning 30,000 tonnes of plastic waste in Indonesia will cause 90,000 tonnes of CO2-equivalent emissions.

  • Unilever's CreaSolv pilot project in Indonesia shut down quietly and abruptly as they tried to chemically recycle sachets to empower waste-pickers and provide them with an income. This left waste collectors with unsold sachets which were eventually burned. So, do they really care about the locals?

  • Unilever is making containers with recyclable content, which are still single-use. Recycled plastic will not end the sachets problem, refillable containers will.

  • Unilever created pilot refill shops across South-East Asia, but they were short-lived. There is no news as to whether they will continue or not.

Solutions
  • banning single use-plastic sachets.

  • zero waste shops or package-free shops

  • mobile refill stations

  • vending refill machines

What Does the Future Hold?

The narrative of waste and plastic pollution needs to change. Corporate plastic polluters such as Unilever, Coca-Cola, Nestle, Procter and Gamble need to understand that they are producing too much plastic, more than the world can handle. Rather than finding solutions to the problems they are creating, they should nip the problem in the bud and find alternative ways to sell their products. They should phase out plastic packaging and invest in many many many refill-reuse systems across the world.


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For more information contact: info@scarabtrust.org.uk


Image: SOP_Still_Indonesia_kids

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