Plastic happens to all of us

Filed in Blog by on April 3, 2009 13 Comments
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plastic meat packagingSee, even hardened zero wasters fall into the plastic trap every now and then.

Last week, the cat had her tongue hanging out from lack of food and Little Miss Green had a bacon craving. That was fine, except that the craving was announced 5 minutes before the butcher closed and we were already in the car, sans reusable plastic containers.

The cat can’t eat any tinned cat food; she instantly throws it back up – a girl of taste I reckon. The small convenience store next door to the butcher sells a small tin of salmon for £2.99. My other choice was to buy some liver from the butchers, in some plastic wrap for 47p.

which would you choose?

cat waiting for zero waste meal

My choice for bacon was to buy it in a heavy black plastic tray from the Co-op, go without (you have to know Little Miss Green to know this is not acceptable) or buy it from the butchers in the knowledge that at least it would be less packaging than a supermarket.

So buy it we did. The butcher had a right old giggle at our expense and even offered us a carrier bag to carry it home in. The little minx.

So there you go. Despite good intentions and many habits put in place over the past 9 months, there are still the occasions when convenience catches us out.

What about you? When was the last time you were caught out like this in the shops.


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 (13)

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  1. MrsJ says:

    Yesterday. I thought it ironic as we have done so well with our resuable bags but yesterday we decided to pop into tescos and do a big shop and the bags were at home – ironically because we don’t usually use tescos lately and they reward for reusing bags.

  2. John Costigane says:

    Hi Mrs Green,

    You are absolutely right when is comes to the young. They lack the experience, where for the better good, you can decide to do without. Value for money is also an exception.

    My resolve was recently tested and found partly wanting when I purchased an Easter Egg (quelle surprise!). The KitKat Egg was plastic free except for 2 bars with the hated foil but I still had to test the truth of the whole package?

    Happily, the Smarties Egg is 100% Zero Waste. This is therefore, alongside Cadbury’s Creme Eggs pack, a suitable choice.

  3. Katy says:

    I have been caught out when popping in to Waitrose on the way home* – this is often at the end of their hours, and there are bargains to be had on the fresh fish and meat counters. Last time, at least my £1 fillets of haddock went in just one plastic bag, which was re-used to wrap the skin and bones to avoid bin-smell.

    * my asking for things by weight in the greengrocers’ backfires sometimes and we end up with not enough of something! Thankfully I cycle past Waitrose on the way home and they do most veg unwrapped.

  4. Buying chips from the Chinese takeway when my mum came to visit last week – When Mr A arrived home with the goodies I couldn’t believe they were in a polystyrene container! You live and learn eh! Should’ve stopped off at the local chippie on the way home 😀 xx

  5. Mrs Green says:

    @MrsJ: weird Mrs J; how about that! Never mind, we all live and learn.

    @John Costigane: Glad you found something suitable John. I am yet to carry 1/2 lb of liver home in my hands or pocket to save the world; but perhaps I should consider it…

    @Katy: Ah, the end of day, bargains; how can you turn them down? We fall into that trap too, on occasions …

    @Almost Mrs Average: Oh nooooo, mrs A – there is no need for that horrible packaging. Grrrr. That is one thing that has such an easy option too 🙁

  6. Sarah says:

    You know it wouldn’t be such a huge issue if the companies changed their packaging and ditched, or minimised, the plastic that they force on us. I hate that I have to choose my shopping based on what it’s packaged in. If the manufacturers made the big changes then it would be so much better.

    Like so many things, change is needed at the source of the problem.

  7. Mrs Green says:

    Hi Sarah, I hear you on this. Let’s hope some changes come in place soon.
    I know WRAP have set up this agreement; I don’t remember the name of it now – Cartould or something like that, but it’s not compulsory.
    It’s a bit chicken and egg; it takes a serious boycott by a mass of people to get the message through as well.

  8. John Costigane says:

    Hi Mrs Green,

    The Courtauld Agreement led to reduction in thickness of various plastic items: plastic bags, food wraps etc. I noticed a definite change in blue plastic bags and KitKat wrappers recently. The industry say that a “Glass Ceiling” prevents any further reductions due to food quality considerations.

    This indicates that we can expect nothing else from them. As we know already, we have to make the correct choices to keep the pressure up.

    Another way to face the problem would be to start our own Zero Waste business. We have seen other ventures start and grow, slowly at first. The question is could we all do something similar?

    I contacted Whittard’s Coffee Traders to see if they could increase their product range to include home baking items eg dried fruit, coconut and rice. Breaking the plastic hold on more items would be an achievement. A reply was sent from there, awaiting further consideration. It may come to nothing but worth a try.

  9. Mrs Green says:

    @John Costigane: Hi John, Thanks for the clarification on the Caourtauld Agreement. It’s a shame that nothing else will be done, so as consumers it is up to us to show the manufacturers what is acceptable.

    A zero waste business? What would you suggest?
    Let us know what Whittards say 🙂

  10. John Costigane says:

    I am still waiting for Whittard’s reply. Maybe they are reluctant to answer.

    After the post about Unpackaged in London, from Mr Green, I contacted Entrading, Glasgow, as well. It is amazing that Unpackaged are an excellent fit for our trend. This may be the best way to address the intransigence of the supermarket outlook.

    Setting up another store would be one answer, in a big city. Another is to use space in another shop or link with a local company and order in material, with their own deliveries. Collaboration between all our main Zero Waste contacts may provide some good ideas. It certainly is something to discuss in detail.

  11. Mrs Green says:

    @John Costigane: sounds like you are full of creative ideas at the moment, John. The unpackaged store is excellent and I wonder how popular it is…
    Do you think the majority of people actually WANT the packaging? Do you think we are now brainwashed to believe we are getting a superior product based on the packaging?

  12. John Costigane says:

    @Mrs Green: There is a preference for “clean” produce which has probably been developed by supermarkets to persuade people of this benefit of packaging. Ease of handling is another factor which aids customer throughput, and the resulting efficiency of stock control and profits. The big downside is 30% home bin waste, from now until doomsday, and the waste of resources, oil based. A better way, Zero Waste, is to promote local sustainable options where practicable.

    Another angle is the harm plastics do to us, especially the young. The American blog will highlight this issue and its time the producer-backed scientists were given a tougher time by the stringent testing of independent sources. You could be involved in some big discussions there. I am sure we all will give you 100% backing. It should be fun!

  13. Mrs Green says:

    @John Costigane: I think we have gradually been saturated by supermarkets that all this packaging is the way forward. Although, of course, consumerism has increased too – so they feed one another.
    You point out some poignant reasons with the ease of handling and reduced spoilage (although I’m not sure about that – it’s probably more to do with profits).
    The ACC blog summit should prove interesting.

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