Are you tired of putting the bin out for collection every week? Is your bin full of packaging waste?
We are fortunate that Central Bedfordshire accepts a large variety of food packaging for recycling but plastics tend to be hard to recycle, can mainly only be downcycled, and can only be recycled a few times before ending up in landfill ( or in the oceans). Plastics then hang around pretty much forever ( How long does it take a plastic bottle to biodegrade?). They are also made of non renewable oil and potentially leach toxins into your food. We have therefore been trying to reduce not only our landfill waste, but our recyclables too, particularly trying to avoid single use plastics. This has been a journey, changing our buying habits a little at a time, but over the last couple of years we have managed to reduce our landfill waste by over 80% and our recycling by about 50%. This post is about just one of the ways of avoiding packaging waste, by trying to avoid acquiring it in the first place, and focusses on the places that, after a change in my shopping habits, I find this easy to do for grocery and household items in my home town of Leighton Buzzard. If you know of other local shops that should be included please do let me know.
UPDATE FEB 2020: I have updated the information below since it was first written a few years ago. As I no longer live in Leighton Buzzard I would really appreciate comments letting me know about any further updates to the information. Many thanks.
I now try to buy food, and other items, unpackaged whenever possible. This tends to be easier when shopping at the local market and independent shops than in the supermarket, although the supermarkets usually have some loose fruit and veg – remember to bring your own bags or containers, and most supermarkets now also allow you to bring a container to the meat, fish and deli counters, a big positive change since I first wrote this post. Meal planning and a shopping list will help you have a good idea of how many bags/containers to bring along. Some of my personal favourites for buying unpackaged items are featured here.
Leighton Buzzard Market:
Harris and Sons Fruit and Veg – on the South side of the High Street on Tuesdays and Saturdays. Happy to place fruit and veg directly into your own bags.
Other market traders are also often happy to sell into your own containers – just ask nicely at the start of your purchase. It feels strange at first but you soon get used to it, and so do the traders. I have done this several times at the olive stall at the top of the High Street and at the Delisha samosa stall, a cake stall and at the other fruit and veg stall. The fish van indicated he would be happy to do this too.
The farmers market and craft markets are also a good place to ask. Check the market website for the dates of each. Bucks Star Brewery visits the farmers each month and take their glass eco -growlers back and give you a full one at a discount, whilst the Leighton Buzzard Brewing Company sells refillable growlers which you can refill at the brewery on Grovebury Road. The Honey Man asks you to return your empty jar for a discount off the next one.
Mimic Gifts – Hockliffe Street. Offers an extensive range of refills and bath products – including refills for shower gels, liquid soap, shampoo, conditioner, moisturiser, denttabs ( a great alternative to toothpaste), kids bubble bath, bath salts, laundry detergent, fabric conditioner, all purpose cleaner, washing up liquid and much more. Plus shampoo and conditioner bars, soap, bamboo toothbrushes, reusable wipes, cotton buds and menstrual products.
House of Coffee – Peacock Mews. This small coffee roasting shop is happy to grind coffee as required into your own container. I began by taking in a plastic lunch box but having since acquired lots of empty large Douwe Egberts coffee jars from a local sharing site I use one of those, carefully wrapped in a tea towel to protect it in transit. We then store the jar in the freezer to keep the coffee fresh. Fair trade options are usually available. A small discount is now offered to customers refilling their coffee bags or using their own containers. Loose tea is also available.
Selections – High Street A variety of hardware items from replacement broom heads to individual screws. They also sell replacement gas canisters for SodaStream (as does Argos) which has replaced the plastic bottles of fizzy water we used to buy every week, and saved us money.
Natures Harvest – North Street Sells unpackaged soap and refills for Ecover laundry and washing up liquid. Also stocks bamboo toothbrushes, Ecoleaf toilet roll in compostable packaging and lots of other eco friendly products. Although many of the food items are currently in plastic, the owner is actively investigating alternatives.
Oliver Adams Bakers- Market Square Bread, cakes etc either in paper bags or into your own bag/container. The Co-Op – Waterdell off Brooklands Drive has a daily delivery of Italian bread which can be bought loose.
Strattons Butchers – Market Square . If you eat meat ask Strattons to sell it you without any single use plastic. I ask them to weigh it on the waxed paper sheets they use and then transfer in to my own container, which they are happy to do.
Model Farm – Hockliffe Road If you are passing ( heading out of town past the garden centre) this is a great place to buy free range eggs. We return the boxes for reuse when we next visit. ( I know this farm is currently being surrounded by a new housing development – eggs confirmed as still available Feb 2020 but this may change)
Pecks Farm – Towards Hockliffe – we have our milk delivered in returnable glass bottles by Pecks Farm. It does cost more so is one of our more recent changes, but we have offset the additional cost by savings made elsewhere in our waste reduction journey. The farm also sells a range of local produce, oil and vinegar refills and loose fruit and veg, including organic options, (thanks to Pecks Farm for supplying the photo below).
You can still find some unpackaged options in the supermarket – it does vary but locally I find Tesco tends to have the most unpackaged fruit and veg. Morrisons and Waitrose also sells loose rolls, croissants and cakes – I use my own bag or container where these are self service but have not been able to do this at the counter.
Since I first published this post there have been some new additions to the zero waste shopping options:
The Little Buzzard Bakery on North Street – very happy for you to use your own bag for their freshly baked goods – but get there early as they often sell out!
Clipstone Dairy – Clipstone – has a milk vending machine. I haven’t used it yet but understand they will sell you a bottle you can reuse but are also quite happy for you to bring along your own bottle to fill.
And if you need a coffee to take away while you are out and about, both Costa and Espresso Head offer a discount if you bring a reuseable mug. If you do end up with a takeaway coffee cup from anywhere, did you know that you can take them into Costa who will send them off to one of the 2 places in the UK that are able to recycle takeaway cups?
Have you shopped packaging free anywhere else locally? Please let me know. Leighton Buzzard is coming soon to the Zero Waste App available at the App Store and Google Play.
For more ways to reduce your household waste you can read:
For the local circular economy:
Now , do you still need to put that bin out?
To read more about some of the other ways we have gradually reduced our waste:
- ZERO WASTE WEEK – Tips for reducing your waste
- ZERO WASTE WEEK #2
- Waste and money saving since Zero Waste Week
- Plastic Free July – starting out
- Plastic Free July – so how’s it going?
- Our journey towards zero waste – a year on