Soft plastic audit

This week on the audit chopping block is soft plastics. Watch the video here.

 

This is about one weeks worth, which bundles up nicely into one supermarket shopping bag. I separated them into different piles:

  • Fresh produce
    • grapes
    • spinach
  • Groceries
    • wraps x 2
    • pizza bases
    • crackers x 4 (wow… that’s a whole other issue)
    • sultanas
    • dates
    • oats
    • almonds
    • cereal
  • Online shopping
    • ASOS bag x 2 (1 purchase)
  • Supermarket bags x 2
    • unsoiled nappy bag
  • Dishwasher tablet wrapper x 6

Audit Summary

Room for improvement:

  • One shopping bag per week seems like a lot… imagine one year’s worth!
  • I know many of the items can be purchased in grocery stores and some supermarkets where you are encouraged to bring your own bags/containers. These are highlighted in orange
  • Buying dishwashing tablets individually wrapped. Dishwashing powder can be purchased loose, in dissolvable wrappers or even made at home (must google recipe!)
  • Making a purchase online 1) the clothing was over packaged – 2 x pants inside a plastic bag, inside another plastic bag 2) buying new items instead of second hand 3) I have no idea where they were made or where they came from (but these are other issues that need addressing in a different post)
  • Some items were purchased without any thought given to the packaging or what the better alternative is (here I am mostly talking about the crackers… seriously who eats 4 packets of crackers in a week?! There must have been some packaging hiding in the bottom of the bin).

Where we did well:

  • This year I have cut out some soft plastics already by either going without, buying the product in paper/cardboard or making at home including:
    • bread – I’ve pulled out the old bread maker and purchase Luacke bread mix as it comes in either calico or paper
    • chocolate – unfortunately I haven’t been able to cut this one yet but I now try to buy it in foil/paper/cardboard
    • gnocchi – this one is A LOT more time consuming but sooooo much tastier! To keep up with this one I will need to do batches and freeze them
    • any food aimed at kids in the baby isle eg. rice cakes, rusk sticks, biscuits or crackers – these I am either making at home or letting Peanut go without as they are all packaged in individual serves

 

Homemade rusks, gnocchi and bread.

  • Bringing reuseable grocery* and fresh produce** bags to the supermarket
  • Avoiding any fresh produce pre-wrapped – this did mean buying a whole watermelon worth $10 that took us almost two weeks to consume!
  • I have never been a fan of cling film, alway preferring to put leftovers and lunches in reuseable containers. Since last year I have been using beeswax wraps as another alternative

 

Beeswax wraps made from cotton scraps, beeswax and coconut oil.

*According to a study by RMIT Associate Professor, Karli Verghese in 2009, you need to use your ‘green’ supermarket bag over 100 times for its overall environmental impact to be less than using single use plastic bags. I try to ensure all of our bags are used for years and if they do unfortunately reach the end of their life then they are sent to Redcycle.

**We use old lace curtains that have been made into bags for our fresh produce.

img_20180121_092531514195894.jpg

Fresh produce bags made from discarded lace curtains.

Redcycle to Replas

For the last couple of years I have been sending our soft plastics off to Coles to be recycled through Redcycle. All you do is collect your soft plastics and then drop them off at your local participating supermarket. These are processed by Redcycle and then sent to Replas who make a whole range of products from the recycled plastic. Some of these include:

 

Clockwise from bottom left: signage, fitness equipment, bollards, park benches and boardwalks. Source: http://www.replas.com.au

This is a fantastic initiative, however, I can’t forget the sustainability hierarchy:

1. REDUCE

2. REUSE

3. RECYCLE

That said, it would be better off if I can reduce the amount of soft plastic we use at home before recycling it. In this age we use soft plastics like they’re going out of fashion. We wrap, portion and cover our food and purchases to within an inch of their life. To me, possibly because the use of plastic is so frivolous in our throw-away society (shopping bags are often called single use bags… remember ‘away’ exists, it’s a place and it’s getting bigger by the second), I feel soft plastics should be the first to go in our home. Keep in mind plastic is derived from petroleum which is a fossil fuel, ergh such dirty words! Now this is not to say paper and cardboard are the holy grail. They most certainly are not always sustainable, however, they can be renewable, they are less of a threat when thrown out as litter and are not derived from fossil fuels.

WARNING: Give me permission to rantsoft plastic aficionados to avoid being offended please skip to section 2 now.


The world according to Sam (my next blog) – here is a list of the most ridiculous things to wrap:

  • Bananas – this one really baffles me! 1) they are (usually) all joined together 2) even if they’re not, they don’t roll away 3) you don’t eat the skin (if you do you’re taste buds need recalibrating) so what exactly are you protecting them from?
  • Food almost immediately prior to eating it (think cling film over a bowl of salad) – tea towels people or a plate works well too. This goes for food in the microwave too
  • Dear Coles, please let me bag my own spinach like you used to
  • Dishwashing tablets – maybe there is possibly a legitimate reason for this but I’m not sure why (I am currently going through a massive box of wrapped tablets)
  • Soap
  • Every single food item in kids section of the supermarket – yes I get the convenience but mum’s are like moths to a flame when it comes to Tupperware/reuseable containers. I just wish one brand wouldn’t portion every single snack into “1” serve

Ok rant over, I apologise for the outburst, I will jump down off my soapbox effective immediately.


Section 2

The steps I’ll be taking to minimise soft plastic in our home:

  1. Cut down on cracker consumption
  2. Think before making an online purchase – Do we need this? Is there a more sustainable alternative? Can I get it second hand?
  3. Can I easily make the product at home using ingredients with less packaging?
  4. If the product is ‘too hard basket’ to make at home or a single item (e.g. oats, dates, rice etc.) can I purchase it from a bulk foods store?
  5. Trial DIY dishwashing detergent to save on individual plastic wrappers

Stay tuned on my Product Swap page to see some results. I’ll chack back in later on to see how we’re tracking with plastic waste.

 

Thanks for reading,

Minimal Sam

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