A hefty fine for re-using plastic

Filed in Blog by on February 5, 2009 18 Comments
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butcher faces fine for reusing plasticLast weekend we ended up behind schedule. Little Miss Green goes to her dance class on a Saturday morning. Our plan was to go into the butcher beforehand to get supplies for the weekend. We had all our containers and a cool box ready.

You don’t need me to tell you that the most well thought-out of plans can occassionally come to a grinding halt. Saturday was one of those days. A kind of sequence of events where, no matter what we did, we always seemed to be 15 minutes behind ourselves. It was a ‘chase your own tail’ kinda morning.

Needless to say we arrived at the dance class sans meat. When we came out we had precisely -10 minutes to do a 15 mile journey to our local butcher. Yes, the butcher would have had a big, juice CLOSED sign on it by now.

Tentatively we ventured into another butcher. One we had never set foot into before. “I wonder what they’ll make of our containers.” we muttered to one another, bursting through the door into a shop full of patiently waiting folk.

It was our turn and we asked for some cooked beef. “Could you put it in our container?” we asked, opening the lid and placing it on the counter.

“Ah yes, it’s zero waste week, isn’t it?” said the butcher, taking the container and dutifully tearing it off before adding the beef to our pot.

I did a merry jig inside, I don’t mind telling you.

We bought some liver for the cat too and the ‘master butcher’ (if that is what they are called?) saw what we were doing and said “It’s crazy isn’t it? Most of the meat now comes here in plastic and I have to throw away loads of it every week. If I re use it I face a Β£2000 fine”.

He then went on to reminiss about ‘less crazy’ days when there was a lot more freedom and the only waste he produced was sawdust.

Those were the days………..

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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 (18)

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  1. Sarah says:

    Β£2000?? Crazy!

    It comes down to the underlying issue though doesn’t it – if we use less, package less in the first place we don’t have the problem to deal with in the end. But by wrapping everything in plastic we are creating problems and then patching the surface rather than solving from the bottom up.

    It’s mad.

  2. Poppy says:

    I wonder what happens to the cloths that the frozen lamb used to come in, or indeed they still do? They used to be soaked in bleach and used around the department and even taken home by staff.

    Glad you hit on someone who didn’t just think you were totally mad with your boxes πŸ˜‰ I haven’t tried again yet. I need to work on ridding my freezer of past sins before I trouble anyone else.

  3. John Costigane says:

    Mrs Green,

    The old fashioned butcher I shop at gets the carcasses whole and cuts for customers as required. The only plastic is packaging for consumers. Container use make it Zero Waste.

    More modern types buy produce ready cut in plastic trays etc. This may be more convenient for them but the end result is continual binning of plastic waste.

  4. I wonder if there’s a difference in price on the butcher’s end, whether or not they buy their stock whole or ready cut in plastic trays. I imagine if I were a store owner, I’d always be looking for ways to cut my costs like that. Too bad the costs of disposing plastic aren’t figured into the price.

  5. Mrs G – what kind of plastic does he get – are they containers? Because that is true madness! Good on them for supporting you though. πŸ˜€

    P.S. have just spotted the OOFFOO advert…looks fab πŸ˜€ x

  6. Layla says:

    WOW!! What an AWESOME butcher!!!! πŸ™‚

    May he have many more customers like you – all going ZERO WASTE!! πŸ™‚

    /& what a lovely reminder to us all to, uhm, not fear the butcher!! They may be happier with our ‘crazy ways’ then our own family would like us to admit!!/

  7. russell says:

    Wow, that is ridiculous. Lets bring back common sense in to our world!

  8. Lisa says:

    Wow, I understand it could be un-safe but couldn’t they just have to clean it properly?!

  9. Mrs Green says:

    @Sarah: Yep, Sarah. It’s not quite so bad for consumers in many ways, but this meat arrives in that thick, heat sealed vacuum plastic – you know the sort? The butcher is then responsible for disposing of it.

    @Poppy: Hi poppy, I can’t see cloths being reused any more – my goodness, what if someone gets poisoned from it!?!?
    Hope the freezer slimming is going well.

    @John Costigane: Hi John, I have to say, I was perplexed. In their fridges, were indeed, entire carcasses, ready to be cut up and there were no products already available in plastic trays. These were, I think, things like tongue, liver and all of those smaller cuts……..

    @SavvyChristine: Christine, I think the time is coming where disposal rates will be written into prices and retailers will make better choices. That’s what I hope for anyway.

    @Almost Mrs Average: Thanks Mrs A – it’s the thick plastic wrap. They were totally on our side, which was great.

    @Layla: Layla, you’re right about being accepted for our weird ways in both our butchers! I hope this inspires other people to pluck up the courage and ask. An anonymous phonecall is one way around it if nerves get in the way πŸ™‚

    @russell: and @Lisa: Common sense and good hygiene is called for, in my opinion. But people will no longer take the risks for fear of litigation. You only have to look at the amount of schools closed during the snow to see this, or the fact that kids can no longer use toilet roll inners for crafting or that you have to virtually sign a disclaimer before you do anything to see that our culture has turned into a blame culture who no longer know how to take responsibility for themselves.

    Reading that weekly bin collections were our ‘birthright’ the other month **really** got me πŸ˜€

  10. John Costigane says:

    @Do You Take Reusable Containers to the Store? | EcoSilly: Reusable containers are a standard for loose items eg meat/fish/coffee beans/home cosmetics/chocolates. Do you use them for any other produce?

  11. Kris says:

    Oops! I ended up with doughnuts in my reusable tub yesterday John πŸ˜‰

  12. John Costigane says:

    @Kris: Well done, Kris. I usually buy a whole brown bread loose and cakes in paper or card packets. Containers would help reduce paper/card. I will probably do this eventually as well.

  13. Kris says:

    Well, I was a bit dismayed looking at cookies the other day in Tesco – they look like they are in a paper sack – but it’s actually a plastic lined paper sack with a window now. Ack!

    Actually, sometimes this ‘can’t have’ thing could be a good thing…

  14. Carole Blake says:

    More often than not I make my own bread (well, ok, I cheat with the breadmaker, but I have almost permanent tennis elbow, so doing stuff like kneading bread hurts) and my boys love the bread that comes out of that thing.

    This was in an effort to save plastic wrapping on bread, I re-use old breadwrapping to keep my home made stuff in. I was looking at all the ingredients that I have to use for the bread and everything seemed ok recycling wise, BUT the dried yeast comes in a cardboard packet (that’s ok), and inside that is some sort of foil arrangement.

    I emailed the manufacturers about what that packaging was, to be told it was some sort of plastic/foil heat combined stuff which “keeps the yeast fresh”, and can’t be recycled (sorry, they said).

    Sometimes it feels like you just can’t win.

  15. maisie says:

    @Carole Blake: I found this as well Carole, I emailed another yeast company who also do lots of organic products to be told exactly the same as you.

  16. Mrs Green says:

    @Kris: Packaging like that really annoys me Kris. You think you’ve found something good and it turns out to be a false alarm. I think most items with grease in them, such as biscuits and cakes will be in some sort of plastic lined packaging – we don’t seem to like greasproof packaging much anymore πŸ™

    @Carole Blake: Yep, I’ve found that too. I’m still on the quest for zero waste yeast. I’m dubious of mixing fresh yeast with my lack of bread making talent. For now I’m using a packet bread mix for the machine. Shhhhh πŸ™‚

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