For the past year, our ‘average’ family of four has been striving valiantly to decrease the amount in our bin. In that time we have employed such strategies as increasing recycling, growing our own vegetables and even purchasing a wormary through our local council’s subsidised programme. In that time, we have managed to consistently reduce the amount of waste we send to the landfill to just a single thirteen gallon bin bag. But it has been virtually impossible to reduce it any further.
I have read all the literature about the three R’s: reduce, re-use and recycle. We do amazingly well at re-using old furniture, clothes and even food. My blog extols the virtues of FreeCycle, charity shops and leftovers. But when it comes to reduce, the battle is much tougher.
One of the biggest contributors to our bin bag is inevitably packaging. Literature, which I received from the council, suggested that usually purchasing fruits and vegetables loose was both cheaper and reduced the amount of plastic that makes its way into the bin. I tried that one week. I used one of my bags for life to hold all of my loose produce until we reached the check out. The final verdict though was that it actually added a couple of pounds to our weekly shopping bill, which would have been over one hundred pounds in a year, the equivalent to a gas bill.
The most difficult part of this battle is that essentially it is beyond our control. Why does a four pack of baked beans, which saves our family over twenty pence, require an extra layer of plastic wrap that is not even recyclable? Could the store not just as easily tag the item forty pence for one or four for one-pound forty? In this case, I am afraid the ‘average’ consumer is at the mercy of the stores and producers.
This article was written for publication by the Food Ethics Council.