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I tried to refuse plastic for a day and here's what happened

Posted by Bryony Lewis on

Wednesday 8th May was 'Plastic Free Day', set up by local initiative The Final Straw Solent who do an amazing job campaigning to reduce single use plastic waste and clean up our beaches. I took the challenge to refuse single use plastic wherever possible and it was so much harder than I'd expected!

What I discovered is that plastic packaging is much less of a choice than you would expect, I walked into a local supermarket and could have cried as there were seas of plastic everywhere. I had some victories and definitely learnt a lot but I did have to compromise in some areas too.

One thing I noticed straight away was that where I was able to choose a plastic free option, it was more expensive than the equivalent plastic wrapped product. Fruit is a great example here, I bought blueberries and strawberries from my local zero waste store (even my greengrocers has these in plastic punnets) and the cost was over double! A pack of apples in a plastic bag at the supermarket cost around 20% less for the total weight than picking 5 apples from a box of loose fruit. This made me really sad as most families (mine included) do not have the luxury of regularly choosing a more expensive option for their food. I am really looking forward to pick your own season this year, a great activity for my eldest and I can bring my own containers.

My favourite moment of the day has to be when I placed a recycled plastic container on the counter at the butchers and asked if they could put my burgers into it (instead of the usual 2 layers of plastic bag). The server gave me a very strange look but did go along with my request - a victory!

One of the areas where I didn't manage to refuse plastic was breakfast cereal - my kids love it, and I just don't have time to make a cooked breakfast from scratch most mornings. Anyone who does is a superhero in my mind, or at least more of a morning person than I am! I did discover however, that the inner bags from cereal packets, along with bread bags, frozen veg bags and lots of other types of bag can be recycled at my local supermarket. Although I didn't manage to find a plastic free alternative, I do feel better than I can recycle these. For more info, visit RecycleNow


I feel like taking part in this challenge was really useful, I am paying more attention than ever to areas when I can reduce or recycle plastic waste, but the overwhelming thing that I've learnt is that food manufacturers and supermarkets really need to take responsibility for the waste that they are creating and start to reduce it so that consumers feel that they are able to choose plastic free whilst sticking to their weekly budget. You can help show how much the public want this change by speaking out and showing retailers by example:

- Take your own containers and bags for meat, fruit and vegetables.
- Remove hangers from clothes before you bag them and leave them in the store (unless you really need them at home).
- Shop local and support businesses that package without plastic.
- Write to food manufacturers and supermarkets to encourage them to address the issue of unnecessary plastic packaging.
- Share your unnecessary plastic experiences on social media and tag retailers.
- Don't forget your reusable shopping bags!

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