Unless you have been living under a rock (or pile of plastic), you will have been made aware that the world has a serious issue when it comes to waste plastic. Since the revolutionary development of plastic over a century ago, we have gone mad for the stuff. Of course we have! Its flexible, robust, multi-faceted, and cheap to make. However, we have been so busy putting plastic to good use that we didn’t notice the fact that rendered plastic a double-edged sword; it doesn’t biodegrade. This is less of a problem with plastic used in long-lasting products, but a huge problem when it comes to ‘single-use’ plastics, such as bottles, coffee cups, carrier bags and food packets. These are the products that have been slowly clogging up the planet and oceans over the years, and now the game is finally up! The convenience free-for-all is over, and the push for compromise and innovation is upon us.
The Impact Of Single-Use Disposable Plastic Packaging
What do the single-use products listed above have in common? “Bottles, coffee cups, carrier bags and food packaging”? The answer is that they can all be found in the supermarket. In fact, over 80% of UK waste produced in the form of these plastics start life in the supermarket. We can’t speak for the rest of the world, but if we take that 80% as a global approximation, then it could be suggested that plastics produced by the supermarket industry are responsible for over 6 of the 8 million tonnes of waste plastic currently polluting our oceans.
You will have seen pictures online of coconuts and bananas in extra, unnecessary plastic wrapping, and sure, this seems ridiculous. However, the plastic explosion is not solely the fault of our supermarkets. But, no doubt, they have a significant role to play in changing the culture of disposable plastic and encouraging us all to take a little responsibility.
What Are the Supermarkets Doing to Reduce Plastic Packaging?
In fairness, hats off to the big guns of the supermarket world. Just this month, April 2018, an agreement was made between 42 of the biggest businesses in the country, including Tesco, Sainsbury’s, Morrisons, Aldi, Lidl and Waitrose. This agreement is the first of its kind anywhere in the world in terms of its size and ambition. It includes a number of improvements to be made to the environmental footprints of all participating businesses, but most markedly it includes a pledge to make all plastic packaging reusable, recyclable or compostable by the year 2025. Let’s hope they can really make this happen!
But it’s not all about the big names making changes. Yes, this is hugely important in terms of the sheer quantity of what they produce and the example that they set by making such pledges. But the attitude must be adopted by us all. There is a bubbling revolution on our high streets, among small businesses, that aims to encourage us to ditch the plastic. I am talking about the slowly building swathe of plastic-free stores, that deal only in glass, paper, wood and any other degradable, plastic-free material you might be able to think of.
How Can We Help Reduce Plastic Waste?
There are plenty of things we can change to help this revolution along. Some may seem a bit odd as they are not currently the norm. Our plastic habits need a huge overhaul here, so it might take a few changes that feel a bit weird at first.
Recycling – Let’s start off with something familiar. Now, I know, I know. The word ‘recycling’ and the demand to do so is so ‘gone on about’ that we are almost numb to it. But it cannot be stressed enough, it is vital to dispose of our plastics in the right way. We are all guilty of thinking, ‘well, just this one doesn’t matter’, but that attitude in us all leads to a build-up. Grab a box for your plastics at home, or make sure you put your bottle in the right slot in the public bins. It’s not that hard!
Current Plastic Bags. This is helped by the fact that many supermarkets have started selling only heavy-duty plastic bags. Most of us have a drawer full of them! And if you do, then use them. Stop collecting extra bags. By stockpiling them in your home you are wasting money and helping to create the demand that leads to their supply. Use what you have.
‘Proper’ Bags. Leading on from there, some more familiar ground! Do you forget to bring your long-life bags to the shop and end up getting plastic ones? We’ve all done it. Just try to get in the habit of using them. Keep them in the car and not the kitchen if it helps.
Now, to be fair, the long-life bags sold by most supermarkets are not that portable. However, there are now plenty of companies manufacturing shopping bags to fit every need and preference. Check out some of the top products here: Top Alternatives to Plastic Bags.
If you are off on a mini-shop, or a top-up run, maybe consider using your rucksack or handbag instead. Seems obvious but you’d be amazed at what a plastic-bag habit can make you miss!
Bring Your Own Packaging. Avoid those cellophane bags in the fruit and vegetable aisles by bringing along some alternatives. Paper bags are very easy to get hold of in bulk, so pop some of them in your pocket next time you shop! Or, and yes this is technically plastic, but we all have them in our house already… bring along your Tupperware boxes.
Water Bottles. We buy a lot of water in the UK. In fact, so much that the majority of plastic waste is taken up by plastic bottles. Save the planet and save yourself a bit of money by investing in a reusable water bottle, there are loads of great designs on the market: For starters, check ou the 14 best reusable water bottles.
After reading this article, we hope you’ve been inspired to begin making a few small changes in your life because, as one of the big supermarkets will tell you – Every Little Helps!