Supermarkets are being pushed to go ‘single use plastic free’ But what does this actually mean? What exactly is single use plastic? Is it plastic bags that cannot be recycled, or is it all plastic that is used once and then possibly recycled if people can be bothered to put it in the recycling bin?
Assuming the first option, taking a virtual walk around my usual supermarket the following items are in pre-priced/barcoded plastic:
Bags of vegetables including, carrots, parsnips, cauliflower, courgettes, onions, potatoes, lettuce, radish plus precut salad and vegetables.
Bags of fruit including, apples of various varieties, pears, various, bananas (even though they come in their own packaging!)
I won’t mention all the fruits, meat, fish and cooked meats that come in recyclable punnets, trays and dishes with plastic tops or sleeves that are not recyclable.
Then we have plastic bags of cleaning products, with either liquid-tabs or solid tablets. I've never given a thought as to what happens to the liquid-tabs when the disappear. Do they disappear completely or are they turned into invisible micro plastic? Think I’ll go back to powder just in case.
On to biscuits and sweets. All those packs of Minstrels, Maltesers, M&Ms etc, all in plastic packs. Don’t know if they can be recycled but bet they usually end up in the bin.
Biscuits have always been wrapped in plastic of some sort. But PPPick up a Penguin, or any of the other options and you have double wrapping, the outer wrapping for the whole pack, then each individual biscuit wrapped in plastic.
Move on to Breakfast. Breakfast biscuits are great, they come in a cardboard box but each individual serving is wrapped in plastic of the non-recyclable type. Individual sachets of porridge, apart from being ridiculously expensive compared to actually buying a packet of porridge oats, more packaging is involved.
Then we come to drinks. Squash comes in plastic, water comes in plastic; although I fail to understand why we need bottled water in every shop in a country where tap water is perfectly drinkable. I know some areas might have problems, but everywhere? You can always filter your water if you wish, but the rows and rows of water in plastic bottles is surely unnecessary in most parts of the UK.
All this is without mentioning butter tubs, yoghurt pots, cheese wrappers, pizzas, table sauces that used to come in glass bottles, and all the things I have forgotten.
So how do we cut out single use plastics and what exactly are the supermarkets planning to do? Iceland said they would cut out single use plastics but all their frozen vegetables, fish, and some meats come in plastic bags. It sounds like a good idea but we have become so dependent on using plastic bags what is the alternative?
It’s not only drinking straws and coffee cups, I spotted a journalist at a press conference asking questions about plastic waste holding a plastic pen! We don’t even register what we are using half the time.
I totally agree that too much plastic waste is getting into the environment posing a threat to wildlife, but how can we stop it? We even put our rubbish in plastic bin liners!
Right, time to go shopping now!