It has been a few weeks now since I have intensified my efforts to shop without packaging, particularly plastic, but there seem to be so many instances of it just being so unnecessary. Just a few examples from this weekend’s food shopping trips:
- Bananas – Morrisons, to be fair, had a huge display of totally unpackaged bananas, but right next to it were just as many wrapped up in plastic – why? Bananas already come in a fairly substantial skin, making them ideal for transporting to and from the shop, and wherever else you then want to take them, just as they are. I just can’t see why buying them in plastic is even an option and I really wanted to ask the other customers choosing them why. I suspect they hadn’t even considered the impact.
- Cucumbers – this is one of the very few green things that my son will eat, and now the small crop we managed to produce in our garden is over I am back to shopping for them. I absolutely could not find a cucumber that wasn’t wrapped in plastic either in the shops or on the market.
- Newspaper – surely these don’t normally come in plastic? And since a quick web search about living without plastic came up with articles from the very same newspaper, shame on them. At least this one prompted a conversation with the person buying it who also felt it to be quite unnecessary.
- Sweetcorn – when in season these are actually a great one for getting unpackaged, but the rest of the time, hugely overpackaged.
In my efforts to reduce packaging I have switched to getting much of my fruit and veg on the market where most of it is loose, but still trying to avoid plastic appears not to be the norm. Today I visited a different stall which I had noticed was more popular. I asked the stallholder to pop the veg straight into my cloth bag and offered it across the stall. “Don’t you want it in here first?” she said, holding up a plastic bag. “Er, no, actually that is why I have come to the market with a cloth bag and a shopping trolley – I don’t want any plastic.” She looked a bit puzzled. Anyway, I did manage to get my potatoes and some broccoli in the cloth bag (having declined the cucumber and green beans I really wanted but which were all sealed up in plastic and, in the case of the beans, a polystyrene tray too), but she insisted that she couldn’t weigh purple sprouting broccoli without putting that in at least a paper bag. Why? The potatoes were all muddy yet she weighed those fine so why was purple broccoli so tricky?
Meat is the thing I have not really tried to get without plastic, but rather to just get less packaging by buying it from the meat counter rather than in a tray. The butcher put his hand into a plastic bag to pick up the meat then turned it inside out. I’ve no problem with that – this is just one bag and they do need to pick up the meat hygienically, and it suits me to have it in said small bag to put in freezer when I get home. But then he went to put it into another bag as well. “It will be fine in just that one bag” I said, “I don’t want a second one, I am trying to reduce plastic packaging”. “Of course,” the man said, “trying to get in good habits before the plastic bag charge comes in”. Well, actually no, and I don’t think that charge would apply in this case anyway. Then he goes ahead and still puts it in the extra bag. I obviously still need to work on that one.
I had tried the butcher’s the previous week trying to buy some chicken pieces. I explained that I only wanted them in a single bag not multiple layers. Problem was, I wanted to buy free range chicken pieces. The butcher offered to cut up a whole one for me – I’ve no problem with that – and then proceeded to pick up a whole chicken sitting in a polystyrene tray in order to unwrap it, cut it up and then rewrap the pieces for me. Not quite what I had hoped for. I had a similar issue when using the milkman so the glass bottles could be reused, and as I wanted it fresh each day – fine unless you happen to want organic milk which for some reason only comes in plastic bottles and it turned out our milkman only delivers twice a week so no advantage to me over getting it from the supermarket myself.