Meet the challenge of Plastic Freebruary
Plastics are a hot topic on the policy agenda. Inspired by Plastic Freebruary, Zoe Casey embarked on a plastic-free journey with the goal of not buying plastic for a month. This is her story.
Plastics are now a hot topic. Last month, the European Commission launched a strategy to tackle plastic waste. Plastic pollution in the ocean has attracted people's attention, and even the plastic in seemingly compostable tea bags made headlines. Coupled with shocking statistics, the EU only recycles 30% of plastic waste, which generates 15.88 million tons of plastic packaging waste every year. There are good reasons to be plastic-free in February.
Inspired by my brother who works on a British environmentally friendly buffalo farm, I started a plastic-free journey with the goal of not buying plastic for the entire month.
If you only shop in the supermarket, it is almost impossible to avoid using plastic products. From biscuits to cooked food, the entire aisle is filled with disposable plastic. Fortunately, local organic stores sell many products by weight. I am happy to find that I can buy pasta, rice, cereals, and even chocolates and biscuits in kraft paper bags. For fruits and vegetables, the local vegetable box program meets the weekly demand, supplemented by the local Sunday market.
I buy cheese, meat and fish from organic stores or markets, but I have to carry reusable containers to avoid using plastic liners. Milk is something I often eat in my family; I can no longer find the glass bottle in my childhood memories. Then I had a breakthrough-the dairy stall in the local market had a big bucket of milk, and they agreed to refill the screw cap bottles with milk, provided that I washed them thoroughly without leaving a trace of alcohol! Nevertheless, I admit that buying milk like this is a tedious and annoying process.
But what about plastic before the food reaches the store? At Buffalo Farm, my brother faced serious obstacles in the one-time plastic-free challenge. "We are a natural farm without pesticides. We do a lot of good things for the environment by managing animals and land, but we buy a lot of single-use plastics," said Nicholas Casey.
Broughton Buffalo sells meat at the farmers market through delivery or farm shop. Health and safety rules stipulate that meat must be packaged in disposable plastic on the farm before it can be sold on the market. The only way to avoid this is to have the butcher in the market cut the meat into selected pieces on the spot. The cost of this is prohibitive, so Nicholas has been looking for alternatives to plastic-free packaging.
"Unfortunately, only oil-based plastics can provide a longer shelf life because they are effective moisture barriers. Even plant-based plastics require plastic film covers and gas flushing to extend the shelf life of meat," he said.
At the moment, no plastic barriers seem insurmountable, but a simple solution is to encourage shoppers who go straight to the farm to bring their own containers. The farm also keeps the meat fresh by using wool and ice in the box, thus avoiding polystyrene packaging. Obviously, it will take legislative actions and investments to bring about profound changes.
Plastic Freebruary is easier than I thought, but I avoided what I wanted to buy: smoked salmon, mussels, cherry tomatoes, fresh herbs, and the kids missed canned yogurt and kiri cheese (the school does not allow glass but A slice of homemade cheese is obviously not cool). There are also some things that I cannot avoid, such as toilet paper-even recycled varieties are packaged in plastic. I also didn't buy any clothes, household items or toiletries-I think there is a whole new challenge there.
As with all lifestyle decisions, it's about choosing and being more organized, such as remembering to bring back refill containers, and having a glass recycling system when we suddenly discover that we have more glass waste. I also found that it caused a lot of questions-why is it cheaper to produce virgin plastic than recycled plastic? What are the rules for food packaging? How will they change? Why does cucumber shrink packaging? If there is plastic hidden in the tea bag, what else does it do? From here, I may occasionally allow myself to bring a pack of smoked salmon and plastic baby bottles, but I will try to keep it plastic-free as much as possible.
"It raises a lot of questions-why is it cheaper to produce virgin plastic than recycled plastic? What are the rules for food packaging? How will they change? Why do cucumbers shrink? If there is plastic hidden in tea bags, what else does it do? From here, I may occasionally allow myself to bring a pack of smoked salmon and plastic baby bottles, but I will try to keep it plastic-free as much as possible."
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