Waste challenge

I know that this has been done many times before and I’m purely giving it a go to see how much extra waste my daughter and I actually throw out each week over and above the stuff we recycle and compost.

We’ve waited until the boys went back (cheating a little I know but we need to start with a handicap), emptied all the bins around the house so that we don’t cheat and chuck stuff in there when the other one isn’t looking and I’m using this jar as our bin. Frankly, it’s not looking good! It’s Saturday afternoon and already the jar has several plastic wrappers in there from things that came in the mail, a bag of spinach, a bag of celery and a cucumber! The foil is a plastic foil from some loose leaf tea I bought this morning in a cardboard box, so can’t be recycled. I am feeling a bit defeated already.

I went out to do the shop this morning with the aim to come back with less plastic, and I think I’ve done that by switching a few habits, however, I have also managed to increase the cost of my shop. In order to get my fruit and veg unwrapped I went to the farm shop. It’s more expensive, it is good stuff, and the parking there is free. I could have gone to the market in town where it would have been cheaper, but:

  • I would have had to pay for parking
  • It would have actually taken me longer to park the car, walk to the market than going to the farm shop and I just didn’t have that time to spare when I knew I’d need to go to the supermarket too.

I think, when you’re trying to lower your plastic use, these things have to be factored in. It’s all well and good saying ‘do this, do that’, but I work, as do most people, therefore weekends are precious; I have kids, as do many people, who have activities that I need to get them to; I want to do other things in my rare day off not sit in traffic or drive miles to get loose veg, it costs petrol to drive to these places and they are not all under the same roof’; buying stuff from zero waste places or farm shops can sometimes be more expensive, thus the cost for food goes up. Therefore, I think the mantra needs to be ‘do what you can’. Supermarkets have to be held somewhat accountable for selling stuff wrapped in plastic all the while.

Anyway, I digress: I managed everything bar celery and cucumber unwrapped for the fruit and veg. (Don’t get me started on cucumber it is my biggest bug bear. Roll on summer where I’ll grow them in the poly tunnel for months! ). I did need to make a few changes to our ‘normal’ stuff. No Pink Lady apples, so we have Braeburn this week, no spinach as it was all bagged, so we are having black cabbage and broccoli stems instead. I do like spinach as I put it in my juices in the morning, but nowhere seems to sell it loose.

With regards the rest of the food, well I went to Waitrose as they’re now allowing you to bring your own containers for the various fresh meat, fish and deli counters. I could have gone to Morrison’s which would have reduced my bill, but at the time I wanted to go, this meant crossing over to the other side of town, sitting in the queues for ages and then pushing round a heaving supermarket (our Waitrose is little). I copped out as I needed to get back.

I bought a couple of salmon fillets from the fish counter and some ham. Five slices of ham cost me way over what I would have paid for the pre-packed stuff. It’s probably nicer and better quality (I won’t know, I don’t eat meat, it’s for my daughter’s sandwiches) but at the price I paid I can’t keep up with buying it that way. The other ridiculously expensive thing was cordial. Again, my daughter loves a little bit of it in her water sometimes and I didn’t want the plastic bottles, so bought ones in glass. It was double the price! Double!! I know that if I were a die hard, I could make my own, but I just don’t have the time to do that. I love kombucha and keep some of that in the fridge which I refill when I go to The Clean Kilo, but she hates it, so I want to get her something she likes to ensure she drinks enough (she primarily drinks water, as do I, but sometimes just likes a change before anyone suggests she could just drink water!).

Ketchup and Brown sauces in jars were also more expensive than the plastic containers as was loose leaf tea. I have bought from The Brew Co. in the past, but fortunately Waitrose do their own breakfast blend at a fraction of the price, so we had two boxes of this (sadly there is an un-recyclable foil inside for freshness).

As I write this I know there are alternatives to all these issues, but it is whether or not I am prepared to make those changes. I could make cordial for her in batches, I have a pasteuriser that we use to pasteurise our apple juice in the autumn, so actually, I could do that. She doesn’t need ham in her sandwiches, in fact she and my husband are having chicken for dinner on Sunday, perhaps she could have that in future. Each time I buy a shop pizza, I think I could make my own, but in all seriousness I don’t have the time (or the desire to sometimes!). However, I think my point is that if we, collectively as a country, world even, are trying to do our bit, then there is a need for help from manufacturers, shops, supermarkets, the government to help us out here: Don’t charge us so much for glass jars, have more loose veg in regular stores, when you create a box of a product, find a compostable inner so that we don’t buy it under the false pretence that we can then recycle the packaging only to find we can’t once we open and see what’s inside.

Reading this back has bummed me out a bit as to what a huge journey we have, both as individuals and as a whole, if we don’t want the planet destroyed by plastic, but if we all just do a little bit, make a few changes, teach these changes to our kids as normal practice, perhaps we will start to see a difference in our lifetime?

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