Empowered and with a sense of genuine purpose I set off to the supermarket . My New Years resolution was to go plastic free. I'd seen videos...buy butcher counter meat & loose veg. It was going to be a sinch! I had expected that it would be a more limited choice, but my belief was that there were going to be choices.
I realised my first problem was that the loose apples were all really expensive & looked a bit battered to be honest....& I hadn't any separate bags to put different veg in. I started jamming carrots into the few mushroom bags I could find. Fruit was restricted to pineapples, mangoes, apples, pears and bananas as the rest was either too pricey or in a massive plastic container.
Veg was restricted to carrots, squash, courgette, broccoli, onions and potatoes....my then 11 year old son was taking the mickey out of me as I asked questions about cellulose packaging & plastic free veg...
I walked past our favourite green beans and salad bags...all beautifully presented in plastic...
I (& certainly my son..who was blushing & continuously remarking...mum's going plastic free...it's so embarrassing) plucked up the courage to ask for my ham on the bone to be cut & put in my own container I had brought with me....this guy was all up for it...but still weighed it on a small piece of plastic paper- which I asked him to stop doing... as it was still plastic. He happily popped it in & stuck the price label on the top. Further along I asked the next man for some sausages & asked if he could pop them in my container...this man was less obliging and said he wouldn't be able to do this for health & safety reasons. I assured him that they were clean & I was shopping plastic free. He held out the meat bags he used & told me that all the bags they use are 100% biodegradable & compostable, running his finger over the print on the back (from afar) WELL, I was so impressed I bought loads of meat & walked off with a big grin on my face, so contented that at least small changes were being made.
Missing out crisps, squash, fizzy water & cleaning products I made it to the till where I was greeted with sniggers & giggles from a group of 3 younger members of staff...who treated me as if I was a nut case...my son was doing this already. The lovely lady on the till thought it was an amazing idea & hadn't seen anyone before bringing in their own containers. I felt proud to be a first.
It wasn't until I got home, telling my husband about my first ever plastic free shop that I read the back of the meat packaging...it read 'currently not able to recycle'.....
My jaw dropped as the realisation hit, that this man had also been laughing at me...telling me a tale that I wanted to hear...giving me plastic & not taking me seriously....
That night I spend about an hour chatting with a man from Sainsbury's customer helpline who filled me in with details of targets (which seemed minimal to be honest) and listened patiently while I put the world to rights....he certainly seemed to be an eco warrior at heart but without the authority to make any changes.
I think change is on the horizon but is it too late to undo the damage? We need to campaign for change. There are alternatives out there but the infrastructure to dispose of biodegradable matter needs to be out there...it can't come quick enough for me.
Petition: UK Parliament: Ban single use plastics ...
Feeding a family of five on a budget can be pricey so I have made some rules and allowances for myself.
* Buy loose fruit & veg This can be more expensive in the supermarket but some items are cheaper such as broccoli & carrots. I either take my reusable product bags, leave them loose or use the paper mushroom bags. Some item such as spinach & salad are difficult to but loose so I sometimes allow myself these items.
* Buy less meat or from the meat counter/butcher It is so much cheaper to buy less meat & kinder to the environment in today's climate of mass farming. Many supermarkets will now allow you to take your own containers to buy meat & I 'try' to buy outdoor bred or free range when I do.
* Buy tinned food & Items in cardboard packaging Both of these are highly recyclable.
* Use local grocers Great for buying loose. Buy sacks of potatoes & veg often slightly cheaper than the supermarket. Good to support local business.
* Grow our own veg We are lucky enough to live in the countryside where we can grow our own vegetables. We grow courgettes, green beans, salad, tomatoes, raspberries & potatoes. Spinach & chard are amazing seasonal veg that keep giving with little attention. Some foods can be frozen, I make a lovely passata with my tomatoes, or chutneys with excess courgettes and green tomatoes!
* Keep chickens Our happy & friendly chicky girls provide us with fresh eggs daily. We know where they've come from & know our chickens have a happy free range life.
* Bake Bread Can be done by hand but our bread machine....possibly our best ever wedding present! No plastic, no waste. Fresh & on demand. You can even make dough that will rise for your home made pizzas!
* I allow myself any product if it is discounted due to near use by date (wrongly or rightly) ....
For those who can afford it Milk & More will deliver milk & other items freshly to your door, in glass bottles. They also do fruit and vegetable boxes!
There are amazing people out there, in Ipswich we have the Ipswich Ripple Food Coop who sell vegetarian & Organic wholefoods. Take your own containers and fill up on dried goods or washing/cleaning products. It is a voluntary community project as runs every other Saturday 10.30-1.30 at 19, Tower Street, Ipswich