As January moves steadily towards February it can seem increasingly difficult to remain steadfast with those New Years Resolutions. Keep going! For 2017, rather than setting a general goal, I decided to write a list of things to do or achieve. One of these involves cutting the amount of waste I generate on a weekly basis (credit here must go to my girlfriend Holly for instigating the plan). At the heart of this experience is food purchasing power. Today, it is still far too easy to drive to a supermarket (using diesel), buy everything you need (and a lot more besides), put all of this food (which is usually wrapped in plastic) into a plastic bag and then drive back home. For the vast majority of us this process has become part of our weekly routine. It seems impossible to break the cycle but the result is usually a mountain of unnecessary plastic which then goes straight into the black bin bag and then to landfill. This is a problem that I cannot seem to get my head away from. It’s a bad habit and like all bad habits it must be tackled.
In the UK we generate more than 100 million tonnes of waste each and every year (1 tonne is about equivalent to a small car. Every two hours we create enough waste to fill the Albert Hall! When it comes to plastic we produce and consume more than 20 times the amount we used 50 years ago, that’s about 3.65 million tonnes of the stuff being thrown away each year (that’s about 15 million plastic bottles each day!).
Right, that’s enough of the statistics. Hopefully you understand where I’m coming from.
A lot of the plastic seems fairly pointless and one of my major frustrations is the plastic that a lot of supermarket fruit and veg is wrapped in.
However, the good thing is that there are alternatives.
One of the best ways of cutting plastic waste is to switch your source of fruit and veg purchasing.
If you google ‘local veg box’ you will probably find that there is a local box scheme near you. Consider signing up for it. There are a couple of local schemes near to me in Bristol including The Community Farm and Leigh Court. Alternatively you could look into using one of the national box schemes such as Abel and Cole or Riverford. Holly and I have this box ticked. Many box schemes will offer the choice of adding additional products such as milk or eggs. Another great system is Farmdrop, which as well as offering a waste free opportunity for a huge range of different products, ensures that food producers, ultimately the people who you probably want to support the most, are suitably rewarded for their efforts.
At the beginning of the year we considered going 100% supermarket free but we soon realised that this is seriously tough, even in a ‘food conscious’, ‘eco’ city like Bristol. We made a list, looked at our local options for purchasing and when taking into consideration time and money resources we realised that for some things the supermarket is simply the viable place to go. I know we should probably be more militant in our efforts but we want this new way of life to be practical as well as ethical.
The thing is that even when continuing to shop for some things in supermarkets, you can use your purchasing power to avoid buying foods with excessive amounts of unnecessary packaging. This is why fruit and veg are now off the list. If you take a look, we are actively encouraged to buy more plastic. Apples often come in bags. Anything that is ‘unbagged’ we are encouraged to then put in a plastic bag. This isn’t necessary. This is why we now head to our local greengrocers to get anything that we need that didn’t come in that week’s veg box. It’s something I should have started ages ago, but now the change has happened I look forward to continuing it. There are other benefits. Personally I find the supermarket atmosphere stressful, cramped and at a pace that takes any enjoyment away from food. Anything I can do to spend less time in those places the better. Ideally, food should be an experience, from your choice of what to buy to the cooking itself. It is part of its food story.
One of the things in your mind is probably cost and quite right. Will shopping in this way cost me more? I’ll be honest with you and say that as yet, I’m not sure. I haven’t been doing it long enough but I will certainly do a cost comparison soon.
Will my individual actions make a difference?
Yes, I really believe they will, if very small. One thing we do need to get on top of is finding a supply of biodegradable bin bags.
There are of course other reasons for buying away from supermarkets than cutting waste but for now, cutting the amount of plastic I create will be enough.
It would be great if you could consider doing the same and switching your fruit and veg buying away from plastic packaged fruit and veg. If we all do it together, we will collectively see the amount of plastic waste we generate shrink dramatically and as a result the amount that goes to landfill, clutters the countryside and pollutes the oceans.