How to reduce plastic bread packaging

Filed in by on June 30, 2008 11 Comments

bread in plastic packaging
Bread. Most of us love it, lots of kids could live off it, we seem particularly drawn to the white pappy stuff that has no resemblance to ‘real bread’ but there we are.

Trouble it, when your on a zero waste challenge, bread comes wrapped in non recyclable plastic. We love plastic don’t we? It keeps things fresh, protected and it’s lightweight.

So what is a green family to do when they’re on a zero waste challenge?

I’ve come up with five cunning solutions.

1- Reuse

If you’re not ready to embrace an alternative to your regular bread then think about reusing the bags rather than throwing them away. Many people buy sandwich bags, but why not save resources and money by reusing the plastic bags your bread arrives in?

Any situation where you reach for a plastic bag, consider using an old one first. They don’t take up much room and are easy to store

2- Compostable packaging

The Village Bakery launched compostable packaging last year.

Their Honey and Sunflower Bread, Spelt Bread, Organic Rye, Organic Rye with Coriander and Organic Country bread are now available in zero waste friendly packaging made from non-GM starch. They plan to switch their entire range over to this packaging in the future.

Village bakery bread is nothing like the Mothers pride white stuff that many people like, but if you like traditional bread, then the village bakery are well worth looking into.

You can buy direct from their site, from health food shops and from larger supermarkets.

3- Paper bags

In our local Co-Op and Budgens stores they sell French stick in long paper bags! Who can resist tucking into a french stick stuffed with your favourite filling? You can warm them in the oven to be served with soup or fill with garlic butter and bake for yummy garlic bread.

If your supermarket sells loose rolls then there is nothing to stop you taking in your own bags to fill.

4- support your local baker

Some traditional bakeries sell their own bread loose from the shelf. Many bakers use paper bags but if they use plastic, you could take your own bag and ask them to put your loaves in there.

Shopping locally at independent retailers can reveal many options. Our local butcher for example, sells bread from a nearby bakery and he will gladly refill your own bag. Likewise one of our closest general grocery stores sells loose rolls, and again, you can fill your own bags with them.

5- DIY

I’m still mastering the art of hand bread making, but in the meantime I’m taking full advantage of two modern conveniences – a bread maker kindly donated to me by a friend and packet bread mix. It’s not purist I know, but it is zero waste. And for now, I’m just happy that I’m not putting plastic bags into the landfill each week.

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 (11)

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  1. Hi Mrs Green,

    I no longer use plastic bags for bread, or for any other purpose. Local bakers offer unsliced loaves which can be either put in a paper bag then into the fabric bag, or put straight into a fabric bag or even placed in tea towel for the home bag. Keeping bread in the freezer makes it last for most of a week.

    Plastic advocates love the convenience but Zero Waste enthusiasts are concerned with landfill and incineration. 2 good reasons for ditching the plastic habit.

  2. Liz Green says:

    Can anyone else out there remember when carrier bags were made from heavy duty PAPER. They were not like the American version but had nice reinforced PAPER handles and were very sturdy. In all the debates about reducing the use of plastic bags, or trying to make sure all plastic bags are biodegradable, there is never a mention of the good old PAPER carry out bags of yesteryear. Is this option now too expensive? Uses too many trees perhaps? Perhaps they could be made solely from recycled paper? Any thoughts?

  3. Mrs Green says:

    Hi John, it is pretty easy to go zero waste with bread packaging if a local baker is to hand. Also, a bread maker makes an easy alternative and nothing beats the smell of fresh bread first thing in the morning 🙂

    Liz, I think there is quite a debate over whether paper bags are actually better for the environment than plastic ones. It would seem an obvious answer to me, but I think when you take into account the other variables it isn’t as clear cut as one might think………

  4. MissCheeva says:

    Was hunting for anyone that sold bread products without the plastic packaging and failed. However, I did come accross your lovely site. I am glad to know that I am not the only one struggeling with the waste issue.

    Our house consists of 5 people and although going to the bakers regularly would solve the bread bag issue it isn’t practicle for us. So I am still hunting as I know one manufacturer packages the bread in paper with a wax coating. I am off now to find out if this is ecologically any better than plastic.

    Ho hum! Keep up the good work and I will be back to see what you are up to soon.

  5. Mrs Green says:

    Hi MissCheeva; welcome to the site! I hope you get on well with your quest for bread without plastic. Often a local baker is a good call, even our butcher sells loaves that are unwrapped and they can be put in your own paper bags.
    I’ll be interested to hear anything you find on the wax coated bags and you can nearly always get french stick in paper if all else fails.
    What about a bread making machine – would that work for your lifestyle and household?

  6. MissCheeva says:

    Well I did contemplate making bread. My husband and I discussed it and concluded that it was probably more ecologically sound to go to the bakers. We thought that baking it at home would involve heating the oven or machine each time whereas the bakers would be doing large batches and the ovens would probably be more energy efficient. Also supporting the local baker is more inline with our philosophy. The only problem is getting to the bakers each day to get the bread – that just isn’t practical for us. So I will investigate the other alternatives for the moment.

    Anyway keep up the good work.

  7. Mrs Green says:

    We agree with supporting local business wherever possible too, MissCheeva and it’s great you and your husband feel the same way about this. Let’s hope you find a good alternative that ticks all the boxes 🙂

  8. Ben says:

    Many bread packets are LDPE, so should be able to go in plastic carrier bag recycling bins. Most Sainsburys have them now.

    I think it’s a good thing to recycle them, but it’s not a total solution to plastic waste. I was told the bags get recycled in to garden furniture, which when worn out cannot be recycled again it seems. I don’t know anywhere you can recycle it, so am assuming this is going to be the plastic’s last useful form.

    I’d like to stop using plastic so much, including the recyclable plastics as they still eventually end up in landfills.

    @MissCheeva: While it’s fresher if you go every day to the bakers, I do keep a loaf or two in the freezer and thaw it overnight if I don’t have time to go shopping. It’s still very good, and saves time.

  9. Poppy says:

    Our bread bags are either re-used or recycled (via Sainsbury’s). I was making bread, but my dear family prefered something more traditionaly shaped then my offerings! Wholemeal which is our prefered form of bread, was particularly heavy going 🙁

  10. Mrs Green says:

    @Ben: Hi Ben, thanks for your comment. We hadn’t discovered that you could recycle any LDPE bag in Sainsbury when I wrote the article – just goes to show how things change! I think reuse is the best option with recycling as a last resort.

    @Poppy: I keep swinging on and off the home made bread wagon, Poppy. My two love my white loaves, but I was a bit under the weather the other week and couldn’t be bothered to make it. Then I got out of the habit as it was easier to buy. Perhaps I should get back into it….

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