Tuesday, April 16, 2019

It’s in the bag

I’m not waiting around for change, I’m changing what I can. Anyone can do that—they just need to decide to do so. Reducing the amount of waste packaging we accept reduces the amount we need to deal with, one way or another, and there are a number of ways to do that.

I’ve been blogging about many of the changes and challenges we face in New Zealand as some single-use plastics are banned, while others remain, and collection programmes change. There are developments on all those fronts.

In January I blogged about how a soft package recycling programme had been suspended, with it’s proposed resumption this month. On April 12, they posted a notice to their Facebook Page, and nowhere else, as far as I can tell:
The Soft Plastic Recycling Scheme and NZ’s leading retailers, supermarkets and brands will restart collections at a number of stores in Auckland after Easter. We will provide more information about timing and locations as these are confirmed.
Sounds great, apart from one thing: It’s severely limited. They will collect less plastic and at fewer places, beginning only in Auckland, and eventually expanding to the Waikato and Wellington. That sure sounds as if there will be few recycling opportunities for ordinary people.

Which brings us back to reduction.

There are few opportunities for ordinary people to reduce plastic use in supermarkets: They pre-package ALL meat and most produce, so avoiding that excess packaging means going to a butcher and a greengrocer, neither of which will be possible for the majority of consumers. There are alternatives.

Quite some time ago, I bought a set of mesh bags used for buying loose produce. In November of last year, I talked about how the price for loose onions was higher than pre-packaged onions. Fortunately, that’s no longer the case, and I always buy loose onions now.

I also now buy loose apples, rather than the pre-packaged ones. I liked the bags because they were so cheap—it seemed like a really good deal. However, I’ve realised that most of the “savings” were lost due to waste: The apples sat around past eating time, meaning most ended up in the compost bin.

Enter those reusable mesh bags (photo above, with onions inside): I now buy a few apples at a time, and I eat all of them. The unit price is good (I buy what’s on special), and there’s no waste—and no plastic packaging to deal with.

The same mesh bags can be used for any produce, of course, though so far I haven’t done so. But now that I’ve seen what a good idea they are, for so many reasons, I’ll be using them exclusively—even at greengrocers. No more silly plastic bags will enter this house—not for that, anyway.

We still have soft plastics in bread wrappers, chip bags, that sort of thing. Most of those I can’t avoid, and I can’t imagine that any food company will eliminate them. Same with meat: We may buy dramatically less meat, but what we do buy (and all of the meat substitutes) comes in plastic packaging. We clearly can’t avoid it altogether.

All any of us can do is the best we can do—I firmly believe that NO ONE can achieve perfection, no matter what they may think. We’ve managed to reduce our soft plastic consumption, but we’re nearing the limits of what we can do. That’s okay for us: All any of us can do is the best we can do.

Baby steps, sure, but taking the step at all is what matters.

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