Moving away from excess packaging
Avoiding excess packaging and plastic is something we are passionate about at Lee Greens. We continue to work with our suppliers to find ways to avoid plastic where possible (did you notice the other week’s spring onions tied together with a spring onion leaf?). We also aim to extend the life of our green veg bags by reusing them each week. Packaging and plastic waste has been in the media spotlight over the last couple of years and as a society we are becoming more aware the need to reduce, reuse and recycle to avoid further damaging our environment. It got us thinking, on the importance of the three Rs and how we can implement them on a daily basis.
Reducing what we buy and avoiding packaging is one of the biggest steps we can take to be a conscious consumer and help protect the environment. Plastics are strong, versatile and durable, which is what makes them a great material for a variety of packaging and household items. However, these properties are also what makes them so damaging. Simply by shopping smartly and avoiding packaged products we can reduce the amount of plastic we consume. Fruits and vegetables are generally easy to purchase packaging free and can be bought loose from shops and markets. Meat, fish and deli produce can be a little trickier, but it can be done. A lot of shops now, including some of the big supermarkets, will allow you to bring your own containers instead of having fresh produce packed in single use plastic bags. For dried produce there are many packaging free shops are popping up across the country, including some in Lewisham. They are great places to refill bottles of household products such as detergents and soaps. This shopping method is catching on - you may have seen that just last week Waitrose announced its refill trial at its Oxford store.
Reuse is an important part of the process in reducing waste and the reliance on single use plastic. It's the chance to get creative, upcycle and repurpose items. Shopping second hand, refilling containers with new produce, salvaging packaging from parcels are easy measures to give materials a new life. There are lots of options for reusable products which can help avoid single use packaging - helping with cost savings too. Most coffee shops for example now offer discounts for using 'keep cups' instead of the disposable cups offered.
Recycling is the last of the three Rs to be considered when reducing waste – reducing and reusing should be considered first.
Most households in the England have kerbside collections of recycled waste which is taken to a recycling facility to be sorted. The materials are then turned in to another product – giving it a second life. The materials accepted in recycling facilities varies between each local authority, but generally most glass, paper, cardboard and plastic can be recycled. But what do you do with those pesky items such as crisp packets, coffee pods, pens, toothbrushes, ink cartridges etc.? – the list is endless! Putting these in general waste is usually thought of as the only option, however companies such as TerraCycle offer a solution. TerraCycle began in 2001, when they set themselves the goal to eliminate the idea of waste. This began with recycling waste that was not commercially recycled and partnering with conscientious companies which use the ‘waste’ materials to create new products. The TerraCycle website https://www.terracycle.com/en-GB shows the long list of waste streams accepted and where drop off points for these are – you could even set one up yourself.
Minimising waste is something we should all be part of. There is a lot supermarkets, brands and companies could improve on to help consumers avoid unnecessary packaging. In the meantime, as consumers using our purchasing power we can help get closer to a sustainable way of shopping by being mindful of what products with packaging we are buying. Asking ourselves, do I need it? Is there an alternative? Can it be reused?
By Joanna Kimber