The amount of plastic waste generated annually in the UK is estimated to be nearly 3 million tonnes. An estimated 56% of all plastics waste is used packaging, three-quarters of which is from households. It is estimated that only 7% of total plastic waste arisings are currently being recycled.
Plastics consumption is growing about 4% every year in western Europe.
Plastics are one of the most difficult sections of recycling to understand. There are over 50 different types of plastic; some of which are easier to recycle than others.
It’s easy to see why manufacturers favour plastic as a packaging material. It’s lightweight, hygienic for food products, durable, relatively cheap to produce and is resistant to water spills.
Is plastic bad for the environment?
Plastic can have detrimental effects on the environment for several reasons:
Around 8% of the world’s annual oil production is used in the production and manufacture of plastic. As a non-renewable resource, it makes sense to cut down our reliance on this and find alternative methods.
2- Precious resources.
Plastics manufacture requires resources such as land and water.
3- toxic chemicals.
Plastics production involves the use of potentially harmful chemicals which are used as colourings or stabilisers.
Most plastics are non-degradable and sit around in the landfill for up to 1000 years.
nearly 57% of litter found on beaches in 2003 was plastic.
Nearly all my fruit and veg comes in non degradable plastic, what can I do to reduce this?
Here are our seven tips for reducing plastic fruit and vegetable packaging!
1- The first R – Reduce
Take your plastic bags back to the store and fill them with loose vegetables and fruit rather than taking new bags from the supermarket. This usually works out much cheaper than buying pre packaged goods and you don’t get home to find a couple of mouldy pears that have been squashed in the bottom of a pre packaged bag (hands up who has had that happen to them!). Choosing your own also means there is less chance of food waste as you can buy exactly the amount you need.
2- The second R – Reuse
Reuse any plastic packaging your fruit and veg comes in. If you open the bags carefully, they can be used to wrap sandwiches for work. Fruit punnets can be used to grow seedlings in or given to a children’s play group for art projects.
3- The third R – Recycle
Some supermarkets package ranges of their fruit and vegetables in compostable packaging. This can be ripped up and added to your home compost bin.
There are problems with this sort of packaging, however. These plastics will only degrade if they have access to light and air. If you put them in a plastic bin liner and send them to landfill, they will produce methane and contribute to global warming. So only use this packaging if you are willing to compost it yourself.
4- Go naked
Many fruit and vegetables come with their own packaging! Do your bananas, melons, avocados, swede, onions and leeks really need any more packaging than nature provided them with?
5- Sign yourself up
Sign up for a vegetable box scheme. You’ll have fresh, seasonal produce delivered to your door in a cardboard box with no plastic packaging. Each week you give your box back to the driver for refilling. Find details of your nearest home delivery scheme on the Veg box recipes site.
6- Mingle with the farmers
Check out your local farmers market where you can buy seasonal, loose products. Consider getting an Onya weigh bag. It consists of a pouch with 5 strong yet lightweight Tulle bags. They are see through so you can see what is in them when you need to pay for your goods and you can use them as a colander when you get home to rinse your goods. The pouch has a carabiner clip so you can attach the bag to your car keys, belt loop or bag – that way you know you always have it with you.
To find your nearest farmers market, check out farmersmarket.net
7- Grow your own
Why not have a go at growing your own fruit and veg? Even if you grow a few herbs in a windowsill or a couple of pots of beans by the back door, this will all help reduce the amount of plastic you need to use. Tumbling varieties of tomatoes can be grown in a hanging basket, mini veg can be grown in a window box and peppers can be grown in a pot on a large windowsill indoors so you don’t even need a large garden.
Sources: Waste Online