That There War On Plastic

This blog was written a while ago, but with one health thing and other; it sat in drafts just waiting for some air (screen?) time. Looking back over it, I feel that it still needs to be shared.

A few months ago a newspaper cutting containing an article that was written by Tom Bawden was waved under my nose. The article stated that UK supermarkets use 114 BILLION pieces of single use plastic every year. That figure is staggering, fruit and veg hold their own offensively large part in contributing to it- or at least the packaging does. This made me reflect on practices at Molly’s Pantry.  

Less than one percent of our entire stock is encased in single use plastic. Is less than one percent still too much? I think it might be given that we have the evidence proving that we are suffocating our oceans. We are a tiny fish in a very bit ocean of single use plastic using retailers; as individuals we are all tiny fish. As I have learned from many years of being spoon fed the nationals Uncle Dave (Sir Attenborough) tiny fish form massive shoals have a greater chance of survival. This is what we need to do as a collective movement towards being better, now we that know better.  

Money Talks

When The Pantry opened, we spent many hours looking into sustainable eco packaging, for us it is unreachably expensive. If we were to use eco plastics we would have to pass that cost onto the customer, which would reduce accessibility to our shop. As an independent we already have the perception of being expensive, but per weight on a lot of our stock we are cheaper than leading supermarkets. We ended up settling on recycled paper bags and recycled card crates. Which, on a rainy day, for customers who don’t drive isn’t the right thing.  It feels like we can’t quite cover it for everyone.  Plastic is difficult to avoid unless you have a lot of money to change all that you wish to. Eco anything seems to have atracted a mark up since it isn’t “mainstream” although this is slowly trickling through.

The idea that plastic free is something that needs to be made accessible is something that plays on my mind in all we do in our little shop. We are doing everything we can to bring our single use plastic count down to zero. Even as a small company we feel a social responsibility to aim for this. As soon as we can afford to convert our dry stock supplies into a refill type arrangement we will. The biggest barrier to this is cost, like the eco packaging. The dispensers are a massive outlay, even with the dispensers stocking on a bulk scale is a massive amount of money that is just out of reach of a business that started a few months ago on £160.   This is somthing that the supermarkets can do seemingly over night if they choose to, so why aren’t they all taking these steps?

Seeing Things From Both Sides.

As a consumer. fruit and veg in plastic frustrates me on more than one level. Obviously the first gripe is that a lot of fruit and veg comes in its own, reasonably sturdy flesh that protects the wonderful innards. The next big one is that there is ALWAYS one bad  item in that plastic bag. When I have shopped at the supermarket the produce is usually of low quality, imported, snap frozen and inevitably swimming in the vinegary fluids of decomposition- before it has even left the shelf.  

As a small business I see the usefulness of plastic, mostly from a waste reduction perspective. Some of our produce comes in plastic at a bulk buying level, for example bunched carrots will arrive in giant crates lined with plastic in order to keep those beautiful grassy tops in good order. Similarly, spinach and watercress wilt and wither whilst you are watching them as soon as they are cut- so what do we do? Some of our produce does come in plastic, some of that is recyclable but most of it isn’t.  Do we waste food or do we use plastics? there needs to be a middle ground.

So What Plastic Alternatives Can We Use??

Our Microgreens come in Bio-Plastics which are turned into power at the end of its life.  However Bio-plastics are not home compostable and are expensive. Recyclable plastics are not recyclable in all local authorities and cannot be infinitely recycled. Paper and card (if from recycled sources) seem to be a reasonable alternative, but do increase wastage and don’t always meet every requirement. The issue is not an easily solved when the use of single use plastics has become a cultural institution.  

The biggest barrier to making the Pantry a no plastic zone is cost. We are such a small, new company. It boils my blood that those who can afford to make the big changes at manufacturing level just don’t. With every supermarket running at huge profits it begs the question why aren’t they making waves to solve the issues? Why are these massive producers and huge retailers allowed to plunge the planet into a hole that will, eventually be inescapable? Why are we as consumers buying into that? 

It is important that on an individual level, we vote with our money and make small changes where ever we can within our budgeting boundaries’.  

Find a local independent grocer, use your local market or start growing your own. Put pressure on the biggest offenders relating to producing singe use plastics, write to them, tweet them, tell them what you want from their services!  Protest, petition, contact your M.P, you are not powerless to make a change.   

If these enormous companies can pay their overheads, announce huge profits and folk out on CEO bonus’s, they can front the costs involved in making a change- they just don’t (until it’s a bit trendy and not in all of their stores). 

Reduce, reuse, repurpose, recycle??  

There is no “away”.  

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