Once you’ve accepted that you can’t always get organic, it’s not difficult to avoid plastic. If you can’t find enough loose produce at your usual supermarket, find out if there’s a good old fashioned market in your town. We’ve found one which is just a big fruit and veg stall in the town centre, once or twice a week. The guys who run it are really friendly, they sell quality seasonal fruit and vegetables, provide small (compostable) paper bags to fill, and it’s very good value for money – much better even than the supermarkets. Just take your own shopping bags and get them to weigh as much as you need. We bought a big 12.5 kg sack of Desiree potatoes from them for just £5!
We also have a health food shop not too far away which sells a small selection of loose organic produce which is great although we can’t get there every week.
Or you might be able to find a local organic produce grower who operates a veg box scheme whereby you order a weekly veg box from them and they deliver it to your door. They will be happy to leave the box in a designated safe place if you’re going to be out and you’ll get a great selection of whatever is in season. The soil Association will help you find a scheme near you 🙂
As for other necessary staples – you can probably get most of them in glass jars or tins. We used to buy lentils, sultanas, pasta, tofu, cereal etc etc in plastic packets because we thought we couldn’t avoid it, but now we’re getting our lentils in tins and we’ll manage without cereal, pasta and dried fruit. We buy organic oats in paper bags and I’ll mix them with fresh fruit for my breakfast instead of sultanas. If we need tofu we’ll get it in tetra paks. I know tetra paks are coated in plastic so I’m not happy with that idea but it seems to be the best option we’ve got at this point. The cartons are 75% paperboard, according to their website, the plastic on them is very very thin, much less plastic than an actual plastic container, and tetra paks are completely recyclable.
*Since writing this I have discovered the Zero Waste Club – a wonderful mail order company in London from whom you can order organic dried fruit, nuts, grains, pasta, sugar, pulses, seeds, cocoa, popcorn, herbs and spices and more! You order it by weight and they mail it to you wrapped in paper bags. See Plastic Avoidance: Part 7.
Things like vinegar, ketchup and oil are easy to get in glass bottles, although sadly I don’t think there’s any way of avoiding the plastic pouring spout they put in the oil bottles. But I always think, even if everything is not as perfect as you’d like it to be, the world would be a better place if everyone at least did this. If the only plastic going into someone’s recycling, or landfill, was a couple of plastic pouring spouts and a few tetra paks every fortnight, that would be pretty good going. Same goes for things like cocoa powder and gravy granules – they come in cardboard tubs with metal bottoms and a plastic lid. Sometimes mostly plastic-free is the best you can do.
Lots of other staples that have always been wrapped in paper, still are. You can get bread in paper bags from a bakery, or you can make your own. I haven’t been able to buy salt without plastic wrapping but if you buy things with salt already added – like the stock cubes above (paper-wrapped in a cardboard box) – then you can manage without it.Something else to be aware of is that tea bags (which are supposed to be compostable) are actually made of 20% plastic. See here for a great post with more details about that and sign this petition aimed at getting Unilever to remove all plastic from their tea bags. Be aware though, it’s not just Unilever that does it, this is common practice. The only way to be sure you’re not getting plastic is to buy loose tea leaves 🙂 And if you check this out you’ll see that there are a lot more uses for tea leaves than just a relaxing drink.
Need a meal in a hurry? Well, you can’t buy hash browns or oven chips anymore, but look what you can buy! There are all sorts of delicious and convenient ready-prepared vegan goodies in cardboard containers in the freezer section of your supermarket.
So whadaya need plastic for?
ps I’ve just found out you can even buy plastic-free crisps 😀