‘Alala!’ To battle we go!

Today was the day. The day of the dreaded food shop. The Plastic Challenge starts in two days and I was determined to win the battle of plastic, ideally without shedding too many tears of frustration on the way.

As I’m now in my Cambridge home, I headed to a fruit and veg stall in Mildenhall, Suffolk where it all started off better than I expected. The vast majority of products were in zero packaging and not only that, loads of the produce came from local farms. Perfect! I packed everything up in old paper bags (which will be reused again next time) and into reusable bags for life.

Next I headed to the supermarket to find some basic zero plastic items. I swapped unrecyclable plastic food bags for tins (beans, veg) or for cardboard (frozen food). Plus I stocked up on cleaning products from Ecover’s bulk buys in powder form which come in cardboard. So far so good. Next came a few problem items: I love my porridge in the morning and just HOW was I going to do that without oats (which came in plastic packaging)? After much poking, shaking, prodding and scrutinising, I decided there was no plastic hidden away in the Quakers Oats box and bought it with a skip in my step (I was going to win this: Jo, 1 – Plastic, 0). Next though, balsamic vinegar put up a good fight in the form of that plastic seal used around the lid. I was so close with all but that little twiddle of plastic between me and salad dressing before AHA! I found Aspall’s Organic balsamic vinegar in a glass bottle, metal lid and NO plastic: Jo, 2 – Plastic, 0. But then the tide turned as I headed to the cheese section; as a vegetarian, cheese is like my staple food, so you can imagine my panic as I saw rows and rows and rows of cheese ALL in PLASTIC. Then I remembered: there’s the cheese counter too, phew! I headed there only to find that everything was at least covered in clingfilm… uhoh! Dejected, I realised I would have to live off boursin (cardboard + foil) for the next month, or until I make a cheese-hunting trip to some different local farm shops (Jo, 2 – Plastic, 1). This was followed by a few more defeats in the form of yoghurt (always in plastic, almost all recyclable but not quite), lettuce (always wrapped in plastic), and coffee (plastic bags, or glass jars and plastic lids). (Somehow I don’t want to count the score anymore). The final reassurance that there might be hope yet came in the form of cooking oil – the majority of oils come in plastic or at least have a plastic lid but I managed to find locally produced affordable rapeseed oil in a glass bottle and metal lid. Everything was bundled into reusable bags (which I keep in the car so I always have them to hand).

So what have I concluded? Well, fresh food, if not bought in a supermarket, is no problem at all – the vast majority of produce is available package free on many food stalls. And there are a surprising amount of affordable plastic-free alternatives for things which normally come surrounded in plastic (often non-recyclable e.g. cereal/frozen food). But the fight continues with certain items which I’m really hoping I find plastic-free for the next month, so if anyone has any suggestions for plastic free coffee/yoghurt/cheese/lettuce please do send them my way! Alala!

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