There’s a naked chicken in my kitchen

Filed in Blog by on June 7, 2008 5 Comments
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a regular chicken with familiar non recyclable packaging

How do you recycle plastic meat packaging?

The short answer is, you can’t. Well, not around here anyway.

But are we going to take no as an answer? No, nadda, nein, non; of course we aren’t.

I had a chat with a great guy at our local council this week. I was asking about the plastic packaging meat came in and whether it could be recycled. Unbeknown to me, Almost Mrs Average had been emailing him at the same time.

Is that why he was ‘in a meeting’ when I first called, I wonder.

The upshot was that we do not have facilities to recycle it in the county and there are ‘no plans’ for it in the future.

Cattus Green is a bit of a spoilt puss. She is given fresh chicken, liver and occasional fish to eat instead of tinned food. Since she has been a late teen, her digestion won’t have anything to do with tinned food. In very graphic terms, she pukes it all back up again, regardless of make, expense or marketing which assures me 8 out of 10 cats prefer it. She is clearly one of the two who doesn’t.

Each week I buy a couple of chickens for her. They are delivered from the supermarket and arrive shrink wrapped in a plastic container. Sometimes the chicken’s bottom is elegantly placed on a piece of blue squidgy papery / polystyreney (yes, it’s a word; I just made it up) stuff. I’ve no idea what that is, but I intend to find out.

Two chickens worth of packaging takes up quite a lot of space in the bin. A week later my discarded packaging arrives stinking at the landfill, ready to sit and sweat for a few more hundred years, long after Cattus green has finished cleaning her whiskers and declaring neglect, starvation and abandonment.

Not to be deterred, my mission this week has been to source an alternative to plastic meat packaging.

I’m not ready to hand over a patch of my manicured lawn (Oh how you would laugh if you knew, but that’s the beauty of the internet) to chickens so rearing our own is not an option.

We hot footed it to our local butcher. I tentatively asked ‘Do all the chickens you have come shrink wrapped in plastic trays?’ to which he replied?


Every week, fresh chickens arrive in nothing other than a cardboard box.

Feeling even more embarrassed I quietly asked ‘If I bought in a clean reusable container, would you put a chicken straight into my box’.

I waited, felt the colour rise in my cheeks, expected him to laugh heartily, usher me from the shop or offer me a stright jacket, but……….

‘Of course I will. No problem at all.’


Inner celebration.

Quiet disbelief that this has been quite as straight forward as I thought.

All the while, he is looking at me expectantly.

So, with my courage increasing I asked him about those funky bits of gingham paper he puts on his scales to weigh things on. Apparently it’s a plastic backed paper and he is going to find out about its recyclable / compostable qualities.
I was reliably informed that it is used in preference to just paper as the latter has a tendency to dry out the edge of the meat.

You live and learn.

But really, even I know that the cat, much as she would protest otherwise, really won’t care if her chicken has a dried out bottom. She just likes, well, chicken I guess 🙂

As you may have read already, I was all prepared to buy my naked chicken yesterday but I didn’t quite get there.

Today, however I’m happy to report after some military style preparation and some If-it’s-the-last-freakin’-thing-I-do-I’m-buying-an-unpackaged-chicken-today type determination all went smoothly.

Box? Check
Delivery in? Check
Opening and closing times? Check

And there was home made bread for tea!

I caught a naked chicken in a box

Today I caught a naked chicken in a box………..

About the Author ()

I am a long time supporter of the Green and Sustainable lifestyle. After being caught in the Boscastle floods in 2004, our family begun a journey to respect and promote the importance of Earth's fragile ecosystem, that focussed on reducing waste. Inspired by the beauty and resourcefulness of this wonderful planet, I have published numerous magazine articles on green issues and the author of four books.

Comments (5)

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  1. Venk Shenoi says:

    recycling plastic as any other material has to follow practical economics – there are different types of plastics – some have commercial value, others none. Furthermore, plastics are low density and cost of compacting, transport to a reprocessing site, etc, etc, are problematic for a total quantity which is relatively small compared with the rest of the waste materials produced.

    Because of the properties of plastics – ability to mould into shapes, resilience, germ barrier, etc, plastics are used for packaging in a great variety – and without them, modern distribution and transport would be impossible.

    So Mrs Strauss – the solution is to buy products which have little plastic packing around, ultimately adopt the methods used decades back when plastics were not available in the variety they are today – of course that will drive up shop prices and reduce choice but then people need to pay for their choices.

    One other thing – plastics are relatively inert – does little harm to the environment in landfill unlike biodegradable materials such as food wastes – and ideal fuel in energy from waste (EFW) plants which is the best environmental method for disposing what is left after recycling. EFW gives an offset exceeding 600kg carbon dioxide equivalent for every tonne of waste processed compared with landfill. Even composting anaerobic digestion only gives 18 to 20kg in comparison.

  2. indiebird says:

    How do I ask my butcher in Italian to put a chicken in my own box? Answers on a postcard please. I haven’t yet convinced him I don’t need a carrier bag yet….

  3. LOL, Truly inspirational…I hope that Cattus Green is really appreciative. What a great butcher too. 😀

  4. Mrs Green says:

    Hi Indibird,

    I find it interesting, this whole thing about carrier bags. In one shop this week, an assistant got quite, how shall I put it, I don’t know really; it was like we had personally rejected an offered gift by saying that we didn’t want a bag. I almost felt guilty for refusing. I think she thought she was genuinely being helpful and when we said no it seemed to upset her.

    In another shop I watched a man buy just a small bag of bread rolls. He paid for them and then took a carrier bag to put them in. I can’t make a judgment on that; perhaps he was going to the greengrocer afterwards to fill the bag with more things, but it does make you wonder. A woman in the Co Op this week told us that many people will take a carrier bag for just one item.

    I hope you manage to figure things out with your butcher! If his English is good, send him to our site!

    Mrs G x

  5. Mrs Green says:

    Hello Venk, we’re very glad you came to visit our site. Thank you for taking the time to leave some comments too. Your thoughts are always very thought provoking and give us the opportunity to look at situations from another angle.

    I do understand that recycling plastic has to be economical, and, being a lightweight material it comes with its own set of problems. I also understand how plastic has become the modern ‘wonder material’ – it’s durable, protective and relatively cheap to manufacturer so it gets used for many things in our modern lifestyle.

    We’ve come to the same conclusion as you – the solution is to buy products with minimum plastic packaging. Essentially that is what our challenge is about. In many ways, although it will be difficult at first, this should make our shopping choices EASIER in the long run. No more analysis paralysis!

    I would respectfully disagree that plastics are relatively inert. They may not account for much environmental damage in the landfill (although I suspect there is a lot of leaching into groundwater that we might not yet be aware of) but the problems plastics are causing the environment at large cannot be ignored.

    Marine life is dying due to tiny pieces of broken up plastics that are creating a ‘mat’ at the bottom of our seas. There are numerous stories of marine life washed up on beaches who have died from the ingestion of plastics. Birds are dying too from entanglement.

    Lightweight plastics, as you’ll know if you’ve ever let go of a carrier bag, get blown away pretty easily!. Once in landfill, they don’t necessarily stay where you put them. I’ve seen plastics blown from the back of the dustbin collection lorries as well. In this instance plastics cause litter, clog streams or get washed out to sea.

    Mrs G

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