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/ Supermarkets and Plastic

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mypyrex - on 12 Feb 2018

When I go shopping I am increasingly aware of the vast amounts of plastic being used by retailers, especially supermarkets. Whilst banishing plastic carrier bags is a step in the right direction I believe they form a mere fraction of the unnecessary amount of plastic that is used. I think there is just so much unnecessary packaging and, at the end of the day, who has the problem of disposing of it - US!

I frequently feel like either removing the unnecessary packaging at the till or returning it to the  shop after I've unpacked things at home. THEY created the problem - they can deal with it.

Anyone else got any ideas about reducing the use of plastic?

MG - on 12 Feb 2018
In reply to mypyrex:

Shop at a greengrocer instead?

mypyrex - on 12 Feb 2018
In reply to MG:

Indeed I would were it not for the fact that most, certainly in our area, have been forced out of business by the supermarkets. Until a couple of years ago we had a good family butcher and a greengrocer who sold a lot of his own home grown produce along with pheasant, trout and salmon of a decent size. Alas they are no more.

Clint86 - on 12 Feb 2018
In reply to mypyrex:

Yes, use market stalls. Keeping out of supermarkets also saves you money and your waistline.

Co1in H - on 12 Feb 2018
In reply to mypyrex: Bottled water is a pariah, well the bottles are.

 

mypyrex - on 12 Feb 2018
In reply to Co1in H:

> ...well the bottles are.

Indeed. Reminiscing a bit but when I first started going into the mountains with my parents sixty or so years ago the thought of carrying water never entered our heads. We drank from streams, often finding a source filtering out of the ground through sphagnum moss or from a fast flowing well aerated stream.

 

Crewey-Rob on 12 Feb 2018
In reply to mypyrex:

Does anyone know what to do with plastic bags? I've got a cupboard full of them and they're not accepted in our local recycling bins.

deepsoup - on 12 Feb 2018
In reply to Crewey-Rob:

Some of the bigger supermarkets have recycling bins for carrier bags, usually somewhere near the main entrance.

jkarran - on 12 Feb 2018
In reply to Crewey-Rob:

Apparently the flimsy modern ones make quite good firelighters

BnB - on 12 Feb 2018
In reply to jkarran:

> Apparently the flimsy modern ones make quite good firelighters

Ray Mears?

Chris Harris - on 12 Feb 2018
In reply to Crewey-Rob:

> Does anyone know what to do with plastic bags? I've got a cupboard full of them and they're not accepted in our local recycling bins.

I use them as bin liners in my kitchen waste bin under the sink. 

jkarran - on 12 Feb 2018
In reply to BnB:

Bemused supermarket checkout lady who explained still laughing that the customer in front of me had bought a load of 5p bags because they're cheaper than firelighters. Never tried it myself.

jk

GrahamD - on 12 Feb 2018
In reply to mypyrex:

Its not just supermarkets, though, is it ?  just about everything is plastic packed either bought in shop or on line.  So the solution can't come just by pointing a finger at one particular sector.

> I frequently feel like either removing the unnecessary packaging at the till or returning it to the  shop after I've unpacked things at home. THEY created the problem - they can deal with it.

 

girlymonkey - on 12 Feb 2018
In reply to mypyrex:

I haven't yet found a good solution to food items, but I have bought a 5l bottle of washing up liquid to refil my small counter top one. Still uses plastic, but less.

Vinegar for toilet cleaner.

I use solid bars of shampoo, condotioner and deodorant and these come packaged in cardboard.

Bars of soap rather than liquid soap.

Bamboo toothbrushes. 

Wax soaked fabric instead of cling film.

I'm always on the lookout for more ideas, so will watch This thread with interest.

Philip on 12 Feb 2018
In reply to mypyrex:

You could reuse the plastic bags on a roll each time you go back to buy more loose veg. Use a butcher - although you still get plastic it's less mass of material. Get your veggies from Riverford - they've employed someone to replace plastic in their packaging - they use wood fibres for the orange and lemon nets.

It seem like the more we try and cut the obvious, the more waste pops up in other areas. I get more things through the post in plastic, more paper junkmail, meats seems to have more packaging. What about all the extra food waste going into the sewage from people washing out packaging for the recycling bin.

Edit : I'm giving up those handwash pumps and switching back to soap. Apparently you can get packaging free shower gel, which is solid like soap - just not easy to find where to buy.

Post edited at 14:02
Ciro - on 12 Feb 2018
In reply to mypyrex:

It's tricky, but we can make choices that will help nudge retailers in the right direction. 

Where possible, buy the fruit and veg that doesn't come pre-packed, and put it directly into your basket without using one of the supplied bags. If in a part of the world where you weigh before going to the checkout, you're going to be stuck for cherries and grapes, but for larger items, just stick the label to one of them.

Often, premium liquid items will come in a glass bottle where the cheaper one comes in plastic - if you can afford to be picky, buy the upmarket olive oil.

As girlymonkey says, buying in bulk cuts down the packaging to product ratio, and thinking about what we used to use before plastic products took over helps.

I recently bought a couple of (metal) refillable fountain pens and a (glass) bottle of ink, so I'm not going through disposable biros any more. An old fashioned leather satchel would cost a fair bit more than its synthetic counterpart, but should last much longer and so be economical as well as more environmentally friendly in the long run. Likewise an old fashioned cutthroat razor.

Glass milk bottle delivery could be an option if you're lucky enough to be in an area with such a service (here, one has started up again - only does deliveries two days a week at the moment, but if enough people were to buy in it could become standard again).

Starting to think about where you can reduce your plastic consumption is the main thing, although the big elephant in the room for most of us on this forum will be all our synthetic outdoor gear...

Brass Nipples on 12 Feb 2018
In reply to mypyrex:

You need to make an audit of where you are using plastic and then look at ways to eliminate / reduce those uses. For instance bought any DVDs or CDs or USB sticks lately? Well those employ plastic, perhaps download stuff instead and stop buying those consumables. Loose veg and fruit.  Use a ventile waterproof instead of a plastic goretex type waterproof.  You would be surprised where you are using plastic if you draw up a list. 

 

bedspring on 12 Feb 2018
In reply to girlymonkey:

I was quite inspired your posting and intrigued by the idea of Bamboo Toothbrushes. So googled them and found this https://myplasticfreelife.com/2015/12/the-truth-about-your-biodegradable-bamboo-toothbrush/

nothing is simple

Ridge - on 12 Feb 2018
In reply to jkarran:

> Apparently the flimsy modern ones make quite good firelighters

Just the thing for getting the potnoodle containers nicely ablaze on the BBQ (as seen at Chapel Stile campsite a few years back).

Ridge - on 12 Feb 2018
In reply to Philip:

> Edit : I'm giving up those handwash pumps and switching back to soap. Apparently you can get packaging free shower gel, which is solid like soap - just not easy to find where to buy.

Just give me time to cut up all those bars of soap I've just got from the pound shop and come up with a gimmicky name and price

girlymonkey - on 12 Feb 2018
In reply to bedspring:

Indeed, nothing is perfect. It's still less plastic than a normal toothbrush! While totally plastic free would be lovely, if I can reduce plastic then it's still better than nothing.

trouserburp - on 12 Feb 2018
In reply to girlymonkey:

There is a danger of society doing more harm than good by demonising plastic.

I've done a bit of googling but not found a convincing analysis of whether paper/card is worse than plastic. Comparing fossil fuel emissions/lost carbon sink making paper, leading to acidification of oceans vs emissions and plastic killing off marine life directly is difficult enough yet alone taking into consideration wider global warming issues. Suspect paper is worse weight for weight (as in you can make a lot more plastic carrier bags/wrapping with 10g plastic)

Then there's increased food waste if it's not protected from the air by plastic, which leads to increased transport, farming... emissions. 5 layers of wrapping on a chocolate obviously bad but I don't think it's as black and white as made out

Post edited at 17:22
Gordonbp - on 12 Feb 2018
In reply to Philip:

> Edit : I'm giving up those handwash pumps and switching back to soap.

There was an article in the media recently about how  liquid soaps had a carcinogen in them....

 

Gordonbp - on 12 Feb 2018
In reply to Brass Nipples:

Apparently tea bags have plastic in them....

https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2010/jul/02/teabags-biodegradeable

ceri - on 12 Feb 2018
In reply to mypyrex:

Journey to zero waste in the UK is a Facebook group dedicated to these ideas.  

Gordonbp - on 12 Feb 2018
In reply to trouserburp:

Interestingly, it seems that plastic bags are much lighter to transport than the equivalent paper ones, so use less fuel and thus less vehicle pollution!

womblingfree on 12 Feb 2018
In reply to trouserburp:

Good post. While it's fantastic to be cracking down on single use plastics a lot of these sustainability issues ain't as clear cut as they look.

Addressing the plastic supply and reprocessing chain, a la Scandanavia and the Producer Obligation packaging regs would do an awful lot to tighten up the plastics - recycling chain

womblingfree on 12 Feb 2018
In reply to trouserburp:

like milkman going back to glass, added weight of glass for transport must impact on emissions, then water and energy inputs to wash prior to refilling, not too mention the embodied energy of the glass itself.

makes your head hurt!

womblingfree on 12 Feb 2018
In reply to Gordonbp:

Co-op are currently trailing plastic free ones and hope to get em out within 12 months. You can find high end tea makers flogging plastic free ones now, but at an eye watering price for your average cuppa

Gordonbp - on 12 Feb 2018
In reply to womblingfree:

I use leaf tea.....

Gordonbp - on 12 Feb 2018
In reply to womblingfree:

The problem is, everything has an opportunity cost. The most ecological way to get milk would be to milk your own cow into a wooden bucket!

Philip on 12 Feb 2018
In reply to Gordonbp:

Clipper organic teabags are fully compostable.

Eric9Points - on 12 Feb 2018
In reply to trouserburp:

 

You're absolutely right. No form of packaging is free from environmental impact and a lot of development has gone into current packaging to help keep food fresh, lemonade fizzy etc which all reduces supermarket waste, transportation costs etc, etc. Paper production can be very polluting and IIRC a paper cup uses 5 times the amount of energy in its manufacture that a plastic cup uses.

 

 

girlymonkey - on 12 Feb 2018
In reply to Eric9Points:

But our energy production is getting greener, whereas plastic is still ending up in the oceans or brig shipped to China to deal with for us (and who knows what they actually do with it). 

Yes, sometimes plastic is the best option, but probably not as much as we currently use

Andy Gamisou - on 12 Feb 2018
In reply to womblingfree:

> like milkman going back to glass ......!!

Pretty sure this is what the OP is hoping for; in particular glass with low thermal expansion properties.  Crafty devil!

 

Brass Nipples on 12 Feb 2018
In reply to mypyrex:

There is plastic in your underpants. Time to go commando.

 

johncook - on 12 Feb 2018
In reply to jkarran:

Burning plastics at low temperatures is not good for the environment. Apart from the soot, CO, CO2 the low temp allows the release of Dioxins which are extremely toxic and long lived and also they damage the ozone layer. Commercial waste incinerators operate with temps in excess of 850*C to break down the products to simple CO2 and Water and some other oxides and also a bit of ash. 

Eric9Points - on 12 Feb 2018
In reply to girlymonkey:

> But our energy production is getting greener

 

Here's our current energy consumption broken down by generation type: http://www.gridwatch.templar.co.uk

 

The key to keeping plastic out of the sea is to recycle it properly, obviously. I'm not quite sure how the plastic recycling business works now but I suspect that waste plastic is sorted into different polymers in the UK then shipped back to China because that is where most plastic is used now. I agree it's not very clever though.

jkarran - on 12 Feb 2018
In reply to johncook:

Fair point, I was being light-hearted but I guess that wasn't obvious.

Jk

Brass Nipples on 13 Feb 2018
In reply to Eric9Points:

China are pushing back on plastic. They do not want our plastic anymore.

Jamie Wakeham - on 13 Feb 2018
In reply to Ciro:

> Likewise an old fashioned cutthroat razor.

No need to go quite that far - a double edged razor is around £25, and you'll be stunned when you see the price of blades. Not really any harder to use than your modern superturbomach23 thing, and a much closer shave too!

> Glass milk bottle delivery could be an option if you're lucky enough to be in an area with such a service 

Milkandmore seen to cover much of the country now.

As I've said before, it's mostly about stopping every time you're about to buy something plastic and thinking 'is there a reasonable alternative?'

Blue Straggler - on 14 Feb 2018
In reply to mypyrex:

 

> I frequently feel like either removing the unnecessary packaging at the till or returning it to the  shop after I've unpacked things at home. THEY created the problem - they can deal with it.

Do it then, and report here about how it goes.

August West on 19:46 Wed
In reply to mypyrex:

I stopped buying disposable plastic razors a few years ago and now use a double edged safety razor and just have to replace the stainless steel razor blades.

I only use loose tea at home.

However I have offset all this by using daily disposable contact lenses...hmmm.

oldie - on 00:15 Thu
In reply to mypyrex:

Wet wipes usually contain plastic fibres which re often disposed of down the toilet and may contaminate the environment....their use should be banned or they might be heavily taxed. Think there was something on the TV recently about 30 tons of sewer blockage due to themneeded removing every day?

The Daily Mail was boasting about how it had campaigned to reduce use of plastic bags when their own colour supplements come in them...probably completely unnecessary.

Personally I'll be sorry if the strong Coke type bottles go completely as they beat sports bottles hands down for price, collapsibilty and lightness and come in a useful range of sizes.


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