How to Eliminate Plastic from your Weekly Shop
Not all of us are lucky enough to live in close proximity to a traditional greengrocers or a bulk food store with its own plastic free self-service dispensers. For some of us, the traditional supermarket is the only option. And that can be tough on those of us seeking plastic freedom.
The good news is that thanks to the 'David Attenborough effect' plastic free shopping is getting easier in ‘the big four’ supermarkets. Many have now pledged to reduce plastic packaging and explore better alternatives, thanks to pressure from consumers and government initiatives. And whilst the supermarkets still come up with some humdingers from time to time (M&S cauliflower steak anyone?), the future is starting to look a little brighter in the fight against plastic pollution.
However, many of these changes are going to take years to implement so while we all wait for the revolution to unfold, here are some tips on how to reduce the plastic in your shopping basket right now.
Thanks to the 5p charge on plastic bags that was introduced in 2015, the number of single-use plastic bags used by shoppers in England has dropped by a staggering 85%! It is now seen as perfectly normal to enter a store carrying your own reusable bag and many supermarkets actively remind shoppers to do so. This is probably the easiest way to immediately reduce your plastic consumption at the supermarket. Keep one rolled up in your jacket pocket, bag or car for emergencies! We love these old school string bags.
Many produce items are still sold loose in supermarkets. You’ve heard the saying ‘vote with your wallet’ and by choosing to purchase loose carrots, apples and mushrooms, you're send a message to the supermarkets that you would rather buy plastic free alternatives. We do acknowledge the frustration when pre-packed produce is cheaper per kg than loose. The best way to take action if you need to buy the pre-packaged version, is to leave the packaging at the checkout.
Cloth produce bags
These cotton reusable alternatives to those thin plastic bags that people put their fresh produce in, are another great way to cut down on plastics in the supermarket. It better for the food itself, as fruit and vegetables left to sweat in those plastic bags can turn bad quicker. You can even buy cotton bags for bread, in case your bakers wrap their items in plastic bags. Again your baked goods stay fresher for longer when they can 'breathe'.
Take your own containers
Some supermarkets, like Morrisons, are already encouraging shoppers to bring their own containers along when buying produce from the meat & fish or deli counters. Stainless steel containers are great for this as they don’t retain or impart flavours. You could also try asking your local cheese counter if you could use Abeego reusable food wrap as an alternative - cheese breathes naturally through its rind, it doesn't want to be suffocated in plastic wrap.
Buy recyclable packaging where possible
In cases where packaging can’t be avoided, try and choose recyclable varieties. For example, some porridge oats can be bought in cardboard boxes rather than plastic packaging. Tins can be recycled indefinitely and can make a great alternative to products otherwise bought in plastic from the frozen aisle, like sweetcorn, for example. And don't forget often wrappers from toilet and kitchen paper can be recycled along with plastic carrier bags in store (see our Not All Plastics... blog for more details).
By making these small changes to the way we buy our food, we can send the supermarkets a strong message about reducing plastic packaging and help to slow down the detrimental effect on our planet.