What a load of rubbish: how I love the planet by refusing bags

CROYDON COMMENTARY: The mounting public concern about oceans full to the brim with discarded plastics has seen calls for grand, global solutions. But as Crystal Palace home-owner ALEX KLAUSHOFER has shown, we can all make a change, starting with our next visit to the shops

The unnecessary plastic packaging on this cabbage didn’t make it past the till

This was the superfluous plastic from my latest Aldi shop … an individually wrapped aubergine, a cabbage in a bag which fell off in the time-pressured transaction at the till, and one yoghurt without a plastic top.

All the rest had plastic tops and there were no “free” vegetables. I have tweeted Aldi letting them know I would be happier buying all these things with minimum wrapping, as I used to until a few years ago.

In January, I became a plastivist. An activist on plastics. It was my New Year resolution.

First, a confession. I never watched Blue Planet because I’m scared of fish. But sometime in the middle of the series, with so much talk about plastic use in the air, I came back from the supermarket and had a kind of negative epiphany.

Suddenly I saw that almost everything I’d bought was swathed in plastic.

Much of it was going to go straight in the bin as I unwrapped and stored the produce; the rest would follow over the next week or so. And, I reflected as I stared at the array of plastic bags, trays and wrappers proliferating around the kitchen, a supermarket shop didn’t used to be like this.

David Attenborough’s Blue Planet has alerted millions to the dangers created by plastics

Second, a boast. I’ve long been relatively abstemious with plastic. I never bought into the bottled water craze that started in the 1990s, having always refilled the same bottle with tap water until it wore out.

Around the same time I also became aware of the need to limit plastic bag use to the point where the local shop assistants would laugh at me for declining a bag. “You don’t have to pay for it,” they smiled. “It’s free.” My careful behaviour must have signalled poverty and membership of a low social class.

Yet I was behind rather than ahead of the times.

My distaste for waste stemmed from a childhood infused by my parents’ war-time thriftiness, a make-do and mend, save-and-reuse culture that automatically meant you thought twice about throwing away anything not perishable or worn out. My mother put plastic bags in the washing machine and hung them to dry on the line. So do I.

Yet despite this inherited parsimony, I now realise that over the past 10 or 15 years my consumption of plastic has crept up and up. Partly this is due to the hyper-packaging of food manufacturers who seem to have become over-protective of their produce.

Isn’t it about time that you complained to your supermarket about needless packaging on single vegetables?

Partly it’s due to the rise of internet shopping: a couple of weeks before my kitchen epiphany I filled half a room with the plastic packaging from the delivery of a single lampshade.

So, although I’ve never been much of an eco worrier – and I’m not one for new year’s resolutions either – I resolved to begin 2018 with a (partial) vow of plasticity. I’ll review my use of single-use plastics, introducing in their place alternatives where possible.

See, for example, the gift of food covers of fabric and beeswax made by my friend Joce as an alternative to cling film. I’ll risk annoying people by commenting on unnecessary plastic goods at public events.

And I’ll engage in some proactive plastivism by writing to certain manufacturers about their packaging, making it clear that for me, as a consumer, less is more.

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News, views and analysis about the people of Croydon, their lives and political times in the diverse and most-populated borough in London. Based in Croydon and edited by Steven Downes. To contact us, please email inside.croydon@btinternet.com
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2 Responses to What a load of rubbish: how I love the planet by refusing bags

  1. More power to your elbow! Some use of plastics is absurd. I’m thinking for example of when two boxes of tissues, each in a perfectly adequate cardboard box, are bound together in plastic. Or the little plastic tags pierced through the tops of pineapples. That’s not to mention the M & S cauliflower steaks – thin slices of cauliflower wrapped up in plastic (now withdrawn, thank goodness).

  2. Grace Onions says:

    Check out the website for Plastic Free July. I’ve tried this for the last 2 years and have to say, it would be a lot easier if other members of the household were a tad more enthusiastic. However it’s good to get some ideas there. Buying things like shampoo and washing up liquid in 5L containers helps a bit. Reusable coffee cup is great and travels everywhere with me.

    Good luck 🙂

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