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A reply from Elevit


I forgot to mention in my last blog post, the reply received from Elevit.

Er, whose Elevit? Isn't that a pregnancy multivitamin?

Remember last year when I questioned who was responsible for making and reducing rubbish? Here is the blog post. For those who don't want to click through, in a nutshell, I was challenging why zero wasters kept all their rubbish in a jar, when instead we should push the responsibility back onto the businesses making the packaging, we spend so much of our time avoiding. Basically, I felt like so much obligation for avoiding waste fell onto the consumers shoulders, when really it should be both.

Consumers can only avoid so much, and if we are not speaking up, how can these big corporations know that we want change? So I decided to start speaking up, sending back rubbish that I can't avoid and ask for smarter decisions on product design. Tagging these companies in a hashtag won't always work. In the blog post, Rubbish - Who Is Responsible For Making It And Reducing It? I took aim at Elevit and their packaging. During my pregnancy, I chose to take a multivitamin that came with extra packaging. Packaging that I know could be smarter. So I sent it back, with a letter and a suggestion.

Here is what I wrote to Elevit (it was a hand written letter):

Dear product managers at Elevit,
I am sending part of your packaging back, as I could not find a way to dispose of it, other than to landfill. As a consumer, this should not be my full responsibility to figure out if packaging like your blister packs can be recycled. I believe you could do better with your packaging. It is a tad ironic that your product is to help mothers grow a healthy baby, yet your packaging is not healthy for the planet. I have included a sample of how you could make a simple swap from the plastic and aluminium blister pack to full aluminium. This would make your pill packets 100% recyclable. The swap would keep all the blister packs out of landfill, reduce resources, ensuring the next generation you are helping grow will not have to deal with our rubbish. Plastic production and its use can be harmful, not to mention landfills are expanding across the world due to poor packaging designs like this. I hope you will consider switching to full aluminium blister packs.

Sincerely,
Erin Rhoads


The below is the reply that came from Bayer, Elevits' parent company:

Dear Erin,
Thank you for taking the time to contact Bayer regarding Elevit. Your feedback is important to us and this has been forwarded to the Elevit team. Should you like to discuss this further, please call 1800 023 884 (Mon-Fri: 9am-4pm. Sydney time. Please choose option 1, then option 2). Please quote reference #AU170021xx. Alternatively, we are able to contact you if you could provide us with your telephone number. We look forward to hearing from you soon.

Yours sincerely,
Bayer Australia Limited


Shortly after my original letter was sent, I found myself in a conversation with a someone who used to be involved with large corporations like Bayer. Not knowing my life, that I wrote a blog on reducing waste or had sent my rubbish with a letter back to a multinational company, did he tell me that if a handful of written letters are sent on a particular issue, that they have to be presented at the board of director meetings. So who knows, my letter could have made it to a director. Either way, the effort was not done in vain. A seed has been planted somewhere at Bayer.

I'm planning to delve into the subject of speaking up and activism this year, so look out for more on this subject. It seems to be a subject largely ignored. And I plan to research the legitimacy on consumer based issues making it to board of director meetings.

In the meantime, I'd would be interested to hear of stories on when you have spoken up about an issue. Was it met with any reply? How did it make you feel?

22 comments

  1. I hope they listen and make a change. Sometimes it's not possible for us to buy things that don't have wasteful packaging, and if the manufacturers aren't making a change on their own then it's up to us to try and encourage them. A few weeks ago, I contacted Quorn about why they weren't using recyclable packaging for some of their products, I got a link to a web page about their thoughts on sustainability, and protecting the environment, and said they were planning to move to fully recyclable packaging. I felt a little deflated by it because there was no set date and to me that seems like a company dragging their heels. I'm hopeful they make the change soon though.

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    1. I'm surprised Quorn don't provide a more sustainable option in their packaging. So many people choose to eat vegan, because of environmental reasons. I guess it's the same with Elevit. They are promoting the wellbeing of new babies, but are trashing their future, with their poor packaging design. I agree, if we the consumers don't start speaking up, nothing will change. Avoiding is not the primary solution, it's simply the easiest.

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  2. This is a great initiative. Activism needs to be a more important part of zero waste otherwise we are only reducing our own waste (which is already super important), but everybody else will keep on business as usual. Personally, I came to zero waste, because I wanted to be involved in environmental associations, but it was a bad time to get involved locally as I was at a geographically unstable point of my life. I am looking forward to your thoughts on activism.

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    1. Thanks Sarah, I look forward to sharing more on activism. It's a very important part of zero waste, and with the growing interest in sustainability and eco living, now is a good time to flex our citizen muscles and demand a smarter system.

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  3. Good on you! I once wrote to QANTAS about the plastic cups and packaging. I never got a reply but I notice that they now collect unused items separately from the rubbish. Its not great but its a start.

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    1. You never know Liz, your letter could have been the catalyst for them to make that change :)

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  4. This is great and I think we should all be practicing this, as we are the ones who make their business run! I contacted Nivea once about their non recyclable deo packaging; they sent me back a standard blurb that didn't answer my questions. I also contacted Bulk Barn to ask for a policy change on bringing your own containers; they responded by quoting their policy (something about cross contamination), but they also mentioned they had received that question before. About a year later they ran a pilot project to test consumers bringing their own containers. It was so widely accepted and encouraged that they changed their policy :)

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    1. I can only imagine that your letter to Bulk Barn helped with the change. I think companies see old fashioned letter writing as something important to consider, as it does take time and effort to sit down to construct a letter of information. As for Nivea, they might need a couple more letters for them to do anything. But, asking for a change has to start somewhere...

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  5. Anonymous5/17/2017

    Hi Erin, great piece. I would like to write some similar letters to my local businesses regarding their usage of straws/plastic ice cream spoons etc; however have found it difficult to write something convincing. It would be great if there was a resource for letter templates which were persuasive, not preachy. Which also included alternatives - like yours has above with Aluminium. The businesses could then see the advantage of making a switch that wasn't seen as onerous or perhaps more expensive. Thanks, Kate

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    1. Hi Kate, it can be hard to write a letter asking for a company to change without sounding like your being a pain. It did take me a couple of days to construct the right letter. My first one was on the preachy side. I'm looking to put together resources that people can use for writing letters. Watch this space :)

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  6. This is great! I look forward to know more about your activism and learn from it too!

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    1. Thanks Susan - I look forward to sharing more soon.

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  8. Excellent work! I've got some old Elevit packets too - I'll do exactly the same thing as you! And see what other items are similar (Panadol? etc) Thanks!

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    1. Good luck! and let me know, if you receive a reply.

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  9. I'm looking forward to read more on this topic! I want to write to my current groceries provider about inessential packaging but I wasn't sure how to go about it. Is a posted letter better than an email? How do I sound assertive but not preachy? Etc

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    1. Hey Lola, you could start with a handwritten letter and use email to follow up two months later. When i write a letter I make sure to provide alternatives and to phrase everything like I'm having a conversation with a friend. No one wants to receive an angry letter full of blame.

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  10. Whilst not plastic related; I recently contacted Coles & Woolworths to suggest that they offer email receipts. I like to get a receipt to check my bank statement, but even though paper is recyclable, I feel this is a waste. Other companies (for example, Officeworks) & Public Libraries, now offer email of receipts. Both companies replied that they would take the suggestion on board.

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    1. With Coles and Woolworths recent announcement to phase out plastic bags, there is a chance they could implement your idea too.

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  11. Hi Erin, just found your blog via Plastic Free July, and I am really enjoying it, thanks! I am on a slow but determined plastic free journey.

    My latest blog post recounts the email conversation I have been having with Encore Tissue about the plastic lining on the brown paper packaging of their Safe Toilet Paper. I don't often go out of my way to interact with companies, but whenever I have done so I do feel empowered, and am proud to be heard. As you say, often it doesn't take a lot of voices to effect change, so there is really no downside to this kind of action.

    Love your blog, and hope baby Tifl is enjoying the world so far. Babies, they change everything :)

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    1. Hey Jo, babies do change everything. But they also give you extra fire to contact these companies, asking for change. What did Encore reply with?

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  12. My example:
    I contacted a tea company claiming sustainability. Occasionally buying their packet teas at the time, I complained that their teas were packaged in envelopes made of paper, plastic AND aluminum! I also pointed out that another brand chose to use nothing but paper for their packaging of single portions. Their response was that "freshness" was more important than sustainable packaging. I pointed out that the other company was using paper and also that I had kept their packets for long periods of time without any compromise to the quality of the tea. They never responded again.

    This and other examples of times I have contacted companies for various reasons have taught me that they will respond once, but when you follow up with their response, many will not make any effort to change. Not unless enough people come together to contact them. I think a great way to make these efforts worthwhile is to find others who agree to come together to contact the company and also to bring in your component of returning the waste their way. Combining the returning of waste with efforts by a group of people demanding (not just requesting or suggesting) change strikes me as a great opportunity. And not just to stop after one try, but to keep following up with the company.
    http://obibinibruni.org/

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