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10 Tips to reduce your plastic pollution when food shopping

For the first time in what feels like a looooong time I visited a supermarket with my sister to do a fairly big shop. The experience reminded me why I have stopped doing my main shopping in supermarkets: plastic!  Darn, insidious plastic is everywhere, it’s unavoidable and so normal that regular (often time-pressed) shoppers are unlikely to think about it, or if they are frustrated, they’re still trapped and will generally buy produce in plastic and other over-packaged items regardless.


When I found myself in Sainsbury’s local late one Saturday evening (the local shops generally shut at 6) I realised how difficult it is to shop consciously and package-free. This local Sainsbury’s is so  small it doesn’t have a deli counter.  This meant we couldn’t purchase some of the items we wanted to buy, by weight and use our own containers to avoid single-use plastic. Instead we bought our olives, capers, roasted peppers and artichokes in glass jars (yes- we were having antipasto!). I’m not claiming the taste is better than those packaged in the fresh produce aisle, as the olives we purchased in jars were in brine and I generally think olives are tastier preserved in oil. Yet we decided to vote with our feet, stick to our guns and principles. We also bought unpackaged fruit and veg, a carton of almond milk (which comes in Tetra-Pak. This company claims to be responsible but I intend to read more about this) loose bread  rolls as there’s an in-store bakery at least.


I realised supermarkets in their current form offer a desperately flawed shopping experience to shoppers with a package-free or zero waste approach to shopping. There isn’t really a viable option to avoid plastic packaged food without making exceptions, even if you really want to. Of course plastic as a material needs to be banned-it’s a no-brainer, but until it is the continued and extravagant use of a material that has unanimously been denounced by every scientist and environmentalist on the planet due to its toxicity and limited life span, should surely be managed better than it currently is. Eventually my hopes are it will be made illegal. I mean if you attract a taxed for carbon emission when driving certain vehicles (and rightly so) surely we should be doing the same to companies determined to use plastic?


The other things is, I along with so many others, treat my decision to avoid plastic a lifestyle choice akin to being a meat-eater or a vegan. Products exist that meet the needs of these consumers. Supermarkets should give equal regard to their shoppers who have chosen plastic-free lifestyle, I am sure they’d be surprised just how many of their shoppers care about this issue.


Until the world of economics stops influencing common sense, I have come up with the following tips that can be tried out  when food shopping in both mainstream and independent shops (because as such as far as I am aware there are only a handful or package free shops in the UK, and none of these are in Bristol, yet). So you can try some or all of the following when shopping:

    1. Buy jarred instead of plastic or better still take your own jar and fill up on*:
    • olives
    • pesto
    • antipasti (at the deli counter)
    • drinks
    • bread – lots of supermarkets have a loose bread and pastries section so you can avoid plastic 🙂
    • *I noticed that the express aisle was full of delicious foods that have become staples: hummus for one, olives for another and artichokes and sundried tomatoes which are clearly very popular with shoppers as they’re always available in the express shops not just the larger ones.

    2.Take your own produce bags, tupperware, tiffin boxes and so forth to scoop shops

    1. Order a veggie box and state ‘no plastic’ when placing your order (I did this and so far it has been plastic free, although I do wonder if this means I will never have kale or spinach? I will happily give them a box or produce bag to use instead)
    1. Stop using a bin bag, wash your bin instead
    1. Make your own from your scooped produce
    • homous
    • bread
    • dip
    1. Support local and buy your fruit and veg from local green grocers and take your own bags or use paper ones
    1. Take your own boxes to fishmongers and butchers
    1. order milk from the milkman which will be delivered in glass bottles that are collected washed, and refilled
    1. Take your own bags every time- the less plastic bags that are used, the less demand there will be to make them
    1. LOBBY- every time you identify an unnecessary use of packaging, then write to the company- email, call,  or start a petition – there is power in being a consumer so let’s  harness it and make a difference

    By doing some or all of the above, you will should notice that you produce less plastic during the week and in the process you’re having a major impact on:

    • the environment
    • the economy
    • the supermarkets
    • brands that aren’t participating in change- I have a major bugbear with babybel cheese stored in wax and wrapped in plastic just to include the brand name :(((

    Finally, because buying is voting  your choices can act to lobby brands and supermarkets to change their approach to waste management. You are letting them know the way they are dealing with it is just not acceptable to the modern enlightened green consumer:- which these days is pretty much every educated person out there.
    What are your top-tips? Leave your  top-tips in the comment section below 🙂

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