Over the years plastic has not only had an impact on the way we carry our shopping from the supermarket to our home through the use of plastic bags, but it has also impacted the way our food is presented to us.
What we mean by this is that plastic is everywhere on supermarket shelves, it’s used to wrap up almost everything, even items that would naturally not even need an additional packaging.
Package free shopping
What we now refer to as “package free shopping” was, only 50 years ago, referred to as simply “shopping”. Before the invention and the wide spread of plastic in fact, local grocery stores items such as flour or sugar were sold from giant barrels, fruit and vegetables were kept in wooden crates and milk was sold from a churn. Now everything from sugar and flour to fruits to liquids are pre-packaged creating a huge environmental impact. Certain items are probably more difficult for big supermarket chains to sell package free, but fruit and vegetables which have a natural ‘barrier’ that is strong enough to protect them from being damaged if sold package free, items such as bananas, apples, or carrots for example, could simply be left in a version of that original wooden crate, and be sold without the use of any plastic.
Since the environmental impact of plastic has become clearer and clearer more and more ‘Package free’ shops have been opening worldwide. A throwback to our grandparents’ days, these shops offer everything in bulk. What this means is that people bring their own container (or can purchase it there the first time they visit and then reuse it in the future) and select the quantity of product they need without using additional packaging. Items that can be bought in bulk through the use of dispensers and dedicated refill stations (other than flour and sugar which we have already mentioned) are for example rice, grains, cereal, candy, and cleaning products.
Bulk shopping is not only a great initiative because it cuts down on packaging, but it also cuts down on food waste as people have the choice to purchase only the amount needed, as opposed to being forced to buy a pre-packaged quantity that would risk being thrown out or getting spoilt.
Don’t get discouraged and do what you can
If you do not have access to a ‘package free’ or ‘zero waste’ store, don’t get discouraged. There are still a number of things you can do. For example you could buy fruit, vegetables, cheese and other items from your local farmer’s market. You can be sure that all items you purchase there will be fresh and that there will be no pre-package in sight. We can assure you that everyone there would be more than happy to fill your reusable cloth bag with their goods!
Other items that we’ve mentioned and which you wouldn’t be able to find at a farmer’s market, choose wholefoods and single ingredients packed in glass, cardboard or paper. Also if there isn’t an alternative to plastic, you can still by in bulk by choosing not to buy single portions, or items that are individually wrapped inside a bigger box. You could buy a larger portion of something, 1 big tub of yogurt for example, and then divide it up in single portions once you get home.
If you buy meat, fish or cheese at the counter, ask if you can use your own container once they have weighed the item. Explain your reasons for avoiding plastic, or single use packaging all together and they shouldn’t have a problem accepting your request.
Speak up and #leaveitontheshelf
Ask your local supermarket to cut down on plastic and packaging wherever they can. All over the world more and more shops are starting to make changes thanks to the pressure individual customers have repeatedly put on them. Campaigns such as #leaveitontheshelf, where people were encouraged to leave unnecessary pre-packaged fruit and vegetable have made certain shops make big changes. Every little bit helps, don’t be afraid to stand by what you believe. Speak up!