Whether or not you’re a fully committed zero waster there are some super simple one off changes you can make this January to dramatically reduce the amount of waste you produce through your food shop.
First things first, if you’re a UK citizen or resident, you can make a huge change by SIGNING THIS PETITION before March 21st. This petition, to ban all non-recyclable and non-compostable packaging from the UK gives ‘a grace period of 5 years to allow manufacturers to integrate viable, sustainable alternatives into their supply chains’ meaning that it won’t throw companies into turmoil, but will push them to use solutions and alternatives that are already out there. It’s definitely going to go over 100,000 signatures, so will be considered for debate in parliament, but lets send the message as strongly and clearly as possible to the kind of country we want to live in.
Beyond that, on a personal level here are a few tips on what to have to hand for your food shop, depending on what you’re going to buy:
Bags For Life
Do people outside of the UK call them that? Basically, ditch single use plastic bags, they’re both pointless and a bit ugly. The minute the 5p plastic bag charge came into being in the UK, usage dropped by 85% in the first 6 months. Which is great, because plastic is the worst, and we all realised we had perfectly good alternatives in our homes already. As a young person I seem to have accumulated a number of cloth tote bags over the years, so I just pop my shopping in these. Why not look around your house to see what perfectly ideal reusable bags are already in your possession, and go from there next time?
Cloth food bags
I honestly have never put loose fruit and vegetables in those little plastic bags, because I am lazy. However, anyone who is more organised and less lazy than me has probably used these before, and they are also not that great. One of the quickest ways to decrease your plastic consumption is to make a wee investment into some reusable cloth bags which you can take to the shops and store food in at home, forevermore. There are some cool options here, here and here, including bags for fruit, veg, and everything else. If you can, go organic, or hey, make your own from old t shirts! If all else fails remember that you can just leave fruit and veg loose in your cart, you’ll just risking annoying the odd cashier.
Side note: these bags also make great, lightweight snack-carrying bags to stop you buying packaged unhealthy snacks on the go, looking out for your wallet and your health.
Cloth bread bags
Every big supermarket in the UK sells bread that isn’t already pre-packaged in plastic, however the one thing that you cannot leave loose in your cart in the UK (and I know, because I was told off for doing it) is bread. There’s some sort of legal thing around cashiers not being allowed to touch your bread, so I would definitely recommend investing in a bread bag here or here, or of course make your own, and you’ll never have that Hovis packaging to deal with again.
If and when you can, bulk shopping is a great way to reduce the amount of plastic you’re throwing away. I’ve been finding that even local supermarkets have started to add bulk sections for nuts and seeds (hopefully pasta and rice will follow); so save up your used jars for use here instead of little plastic bags. If you go to specific bulk food stores/health stores you’ll be able to weigh your jars for the tare weight so you’re not overcharged, but you can always weigh at home first and write the tare on your lids as a failsafe. You can also take jars to markets for things like berries, olives, deli items etc.
Reusable Glass Bottles
This depends on where you live, but some shops offer refills for some liquids such as eco-friendly washing up liquid, vinegars, cooking oils etc. If you happen to have one of these near you, it’s easy to sterilise and reuse litre bottles that originally held another liquid in this way. Make sure to weigh them for the tare, and you’re good to go.
If this all seems like quite a lot to remember, why not set aside a little time to create a shopping kit containing a few bags, bottles and jars? Keep it near your front door so you remember to grab it on the way out, or in your car to make sure it’s always at hand. And why not always have a reusable bag folded away in your bag just in case?
And of course, all of these solutions reduce the amount of waste you personally produce, but products still come to the shops in non-eco containers more often than not. It’s not a perfect solution, but it is a way to play your part. If you combine the above suggestions with signing the petition, hopefully we can eliminate this wasteful part of the cycle too.
Until next time, stay magic y’all.