Nowadays, walking into a supermarket’s fresh produce section is something disturbing. It’s not only the fact that all look the same, but the fact that most of the fruits and vegetables are wrapped in plastic.
But this is not the only aisle that makes me shiver. Think about your local supermarket and see if you find any product that doesn’t come with lots of packaging. I think that something went wrong at some point and the packaging industry (read plastic and paper industry) took over our decisions. Let me explain…
I remember choosing my veggies and fruits in the supermarket, putting them in my bag and taking them home. I also remember buying my pulses from a big sack and putting them in my glass container. Or the toothpaste, just the tube, no shiny cardboard protecting it.
There is no doubt that things have changed dramatically, apparently due to the change of our consumption behaviors. Consumers prefer an easier life, meaning that their shopping needs to be equally as easy. We prefer not to choose our fruits or vegetables, but just grabbing a bag of apples instead. We love to take home between 5 to 10 packages that we will throw away as soon as we get in. Or buy a packet of 10 individual bags of crisps to feed our children in their school breaks.
At least, this is what the supermarkets and producers say.
Buy, dispose, contaminate. Repeat.
There’s no secret in consumerism: we buy, use, dispose. This is something that’s engraved in our society and food producers have taken it into account to market their products for their benefit.
Wrapping the fruits and veggies in plastic containers allows better transport, conservation and commercialisation of these products on the supermarket shelves. This obviously reports major sales, though it doesn’t have any added benefit for the consumer. So, is it us that changed our habits or we just buy what’s available?
Society have entered a vicious circle that is only increasing year after year. Only in the UK, supermarket plastic packaging boomed to an astonishing 800,000 tones of waste per year, over half the 1,5M household plastic waste. Only around 40% of this is being recycled. The other 60% goes back to Mother Earth in a very nasty way (micro plastics in our water, whales dead by plastic consumption, sea turtles chocked to dead by single use plastic items…).
What amazes me the most is the fact that the responsibility of processing all this waste relies mostly on us. Most grocers recicle around 5% of their packaging waste, passing the job to us. We have to take the packaging home, put it in the container and then we pass the responsibility to the council who takes it away from us. We pay for the packaging and again for it to be recycled. Interesting, don’t you think?
It’s time for a change: #packback
The power of sustainable practices
I had to do something about it. A few months back I started to change my shopping behaviour and put in place some sustainable practices. One of them is the #packback approach: when I do my shopping, I leave all the packaging in the supermarket so that they have to process and recycle something I don’t want nor asked for.
Once I’m at the checkout I look for a place where I can take 3 minutes and get rid of all the packaging, putting all the groceries in my reusable bag. I no longer need to have extra work at home, or an extra rubbish bin and I carry less bags! It’s easier and less awkward than it seems, it just needs a bit of courage to do it the first time.
It’s time for us to take control, it’s time for the social sustainability revolution: we have the money and we can decide how and where to spend it. Supermarkets analyse our behaviours and react accordingly. If we leave the packaging behind is a matter of time for things to change on the grocers’ aisles.
We all have the responsibility to force this change. To change our habits towards sustainable practices is scary, though I encourage you to do it once: practice the packback and share it on your social media to empower others. Use the hashtag #packback and tag me (@sitotheworld) and I’ll be sharing it on my Isntagram stories and highlights. Every one of us is important.
Are you with me?