Gather your Tupperware…

(Postcard Image – ‘Sewage Surfer’ by Justin Hoffman)

KK

A reply from Waitrose…

Thanks to me 🙂 (although that’s more my point of view than Waitrose’s) and many other people who must have expressed their confusion/irritation on this issue, Waitrose will now allow customers to bring in their own containers for products bought at their meat, cheese and fish counters.

Some of my Tupperware will now repurposed to this end for as long as Waitrose and I live near each other…

Another small but potentially significant step…?

More plastic fantastic…

 

albatross-wallpaper-1[1]

Go to BBC Radio 4 for a 3-part podcast series called, funnily enough, Plastic Fantastic…

It’s thought-provoking stuff about our love and troubles with plastic….

In terms of my previous post, it looks like I did send my address to Waitrose after all. I just haven’t had a response… Next batch of non-recyclable plastic returning to the mother ship tomorrow…together with offer to be part of finding a solution…

Return to Sender…

KKUprat

Waitrose, alongside over 40 other businesses have recently signed up to a UK Plastics Pact.

Its aspiration? By 2025, all plastics will be compostable, recyclable or reused…

Sounds good except that 2025 is very far away and the agreement is voluntary…and meanwhile, the plastic mounts….

So what to do with all that single use plastic that you might accrue in the meantime?

Well, my sister suggested that (while you’re working out how to change your rubbish habits, so to speak) you might consider this….

Step 1. Save all single use plastic acquired over a month’s shop and wash it…

KKUPRAT

Step 2. Comb through it and apply helpful alternative packaging suggestions to each saved item…

KKuprat

Step 3. Find out where it comes from…

Step 4. Return it to where it comes from, perhaps with friendly letter on what you’d like to see on those supermarket aisles..

KKuprat

Step 5.   Repeat steps 1 to 4 monthly or as often as you like…

More on that pesky cucumber wrapping…

Here is my word irk on this particular subject…

The Cucumber Growers Association gives the following reasons for shrink-wrapping a cucumber:

It prevents physical damage.

It prevents dirty hands touching the cucumber

It prevents cold injury and moisture loss

This splendidly all adds up to ensuring that the cucumber will ultimately last longer…

One happy consumer verified this online, celebrating the fact that their cocooned cucumber had lasted a whole month. What weirds me out about all this is, why does anyone want a cucumber or any other vegetable to last that long, given the rapid nutrient loss that occurs from the point you remove it from its connection with the earth? Not to put too fine a point on it, you kind of want to eat the thing pretty quickly, not break an archaeological record mummifying it in your fridge for as long as possible, surely? (The necessity for adequate nutrition for life and health just sort of disappeared off the reasoning radar here…)

Also, by simply smacking a shrink-wrapped cucumber with the edge of a knife, I discovered that damage to the cucumber still occurs…You may be surprised by this. You may not.

And it’s always been my understanding that you wash your fruit and veg before you eat them, wrapped or otherwise so again this all points to a thumbs up for nude cucumbers.

Quite apart from the fact there is a certain joy to the senses involved in handling produce (possibly with dirty hands argh!) that gets completely obliterated by plastic barriers. You can’t touch it, smell it, look at it properly, choose your own amounts etc etc.

Oh yes, and more packaging on produce, higher price to consumer too I suspect…

And I can’t recycle it…

To me, this all adds up to a compelling marketing strategy for shrink wrapping something that doesn’t need shrink-wrapping.

In effect, this cucumber is a pointy old symbol for all that fresh produce covered in endless plastic that we could eliminate by changing our shopping habits and asking our supermarkets to provide loose produce, deli counters, more staff and aisles of refillable options.

I don’t need or want this.

The polar bears sure don’t need it either….

 K Kuprat

 

 

The Great British Wet Wipe…

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If you go down to the beach today, you’re in for a big surprise…..

This ghostly item is a wet wipe on Cramond beach after it’s made it out of the many sewage pipes located along this coastline. We picked up and counted about 120 of these within a 10 metre section.

This was strange and disturbing. Note the strangely disturbed look on Doug’s face. (It’s quite subtle.)

K Kuprat

I don’t have much call for them so I must have missed the moment when they became a must-use national item. And, um, how many of them must get put in the loo and clearly can’t be processed by our sewage systems because of not being designed to enter them in the first place. So something of a knee-jerk epidemic here and not what I was expecting to find amid the plastic bottles, seaweed and shells.

This isn’t a new hobby of mine – though maybe it could be – (and I didn’t do it without rubber gloves on..) It’s part of an annual national beach clean survey going on this weekend…all information gets used for lobbying purposes. (You too can pick up plastic at a beach near you if your heart desires…find the Marine Conservation Society website for more details.)

And yes, they have plastic in them…

 

An imaginary letter to Waitrose because you never know who might be reading…

K Kuprat

Dear Ben, Rupert and Wim

I’d like you to meet a long-standing, regular customer of Waitrose in a rapidly-changing consumer world…

I’m writing to you because I recently took part in a Marine Conservation Society challenge to give up buying single-use plastics for a month. The reasons for this were manifold and based on the information that an estimated lorry-load of plastics is entering our oceans every minute; that, unchecked, this could mean more plastic in our seas by 2050 than fish and further, that plastic doesn’t degrade and gets eaten by a large quantity of marine life and ultimately by us with potentially toxic results.

The immediate effect of this challenge was depressing. From spending a privileged twenty minutes a week online doing my weekly shop, I began spending on average two days + a week visiting fishmongers, butchers, small grocers and cheesemongers in order to gather my shopping without accruing plastic to go with it. This was partially due to the fact that I couldn’t buy two-thirds of my usual shop from Waitrose anymore because of the high level of non-recyclable plastic packaging on most of the products.

Many conversations along the way showed up a lot of people who also wanted a lot less non-recyclable packaging on their shop but didn’t have the time to do much about it and felt overwhelmed by the supermarket status quo.

It’s left me with the realisation that this is an important issue and that I can make a lot of personal changes.  However, I also really need your help if I’m to be an ongoing Waitrose customer because within the existing infrastructure we just keep generating waste.

As far as I can establish, you are the primary influencers in product decision making at Waitrose. I would like to ask you to consider some of the following requests:

  1. Some toilet roll available either loose or in recyclable packaging
  2. Signage around the fresh vegetable section encouraging customers to bring or re-use their own small bags for this produce
  3. Some salad options in recyclable wrap – there are currently none that I could see
  4. More loose vegetables on offer
  5. Paper tags (or a better tagging solution) replacing plastic tags and stickers on individual fruit and vegetables and other items
  6. Organic butters available in paper packaging
  7. The removal of unnecessary plastic wrap on certain products like candles and cucumbers
  8. More recyclable plastic packaging on meat, fish, cheese, nuts, seeds and frozen vegetables.
  9. Giving people the option to use their own containers for deli counter products. (Apparently not an option at Edinburgh Morningside Branch or according to your customer care team online.)
  10. The replacement of non-recyclable rip-off lids with biodegradable cling film
  11. Overall non-recyclable plastic packaging on hundreds of products replaced with the recyclable kind. (A repeat of point 8 really but bigger…)
  12. The reduction of unnecessary films in product containers e.g. little windows in the cardboard, extra covers on tea boxes, extra covers on cereals within boxes and the biggest bug-bear of all, plastic security seals around glass jars. Please replace the latter with paper tag extensions from the existing labels on your own brand products.
  13. Pasta in recyclable packaging
  14. Offer an ethically packaged toothpaste brand
  15. Offer cleaning materials that are made from recyclable materials
  16. Offer some refillable options e.g. Ecover but also on items like oil, vinegars and shampoos.
  17. Flowers wrapped in recyclable paper or plastic as alternative to existing wrap
  18. Greeting cards in compostable wrap

This is not an exhaustive list but you get the gist. I would also ask that you convey this to your suppliers where applicable. It would certainly up their environmental credentials.

I understand all this is complicated and there are many influencing factors in how things get packaged. I also appreciate that you’ll be aware of what I’m writing about and I want to acknowledge how much Waitrose does already in this sphere. In particular, I’ve noticed and thank you for the following:

  1. Some loose fruit and vegetables
  2. Recycling information clearly marked on many plastic containers
  3. The availability of biodegradable cling film
  4. The availability of bamboo toothbrushes
  5. The Natracare products available
  6. That there are a version of KeepCups for sale by the coffee machine
  7. That you can now buy paper-based cotton wool buds
  8. That some frozen products are contained in cardboard
  9. A feta cheese provided in a recyclable plastic container
  10. Fresh, unpackaged bread

This list isn’t exhaustive either but you get the gist…

Returning to the reason for writing this letter, I’d like to help stem the plastic flow and I’d like your influential help given your existing commitment to ‘treading lightly.’ If my suggestions are not feasible, I’d be really interested to know what is.

And perhaps, it’s worth saying that these are issues are unlikely to go away now so for Waitrose to up its champion-status of this movement is enlightened and essential….

And very, very groovy….

Plastic bags, Waitrose and the entente cordiale…

K Kuprat

I’ve now developed a bit of a thing about plastic bags. I’ve started to view them as a kind of amoebic life-form that keep trying to attach themselves to me when I’m not looking. They turn up in unexpected places. They are surprisingly resistant to mass culls. And they breed…

So I’ve had a bit of an internal stand-off with Waitrose on their home delivery policy to tenement flats in Edinburgh, which insists very politely that if you live in one, you have to order plastic bags for your delivery and pay for them too. (I know they take back the old ones to recycle but one or two always escape detection and migrate to lead a free roaming existence under the fridge or the sofa.)

So I just stopped ordering the plastic bags and didn’t pay for them. And decided to see what would happen next.

This evoked a few responses over the weeks. Sometimes, they ignored this and just served up the entire shop in plastic bags anyway and sometimes they brought it up in large plastic crates, plastic bag-free, bearing facial expressions that were a little hard to read. At other times, it was a hybrid of the two – crates with just some of the groceries in plastic bags…

Either way, everyone stayed friendly, polite and steadfastly silent on the matter.

Then, a couple of weeks ago, a driver takes the bull by the proverbial horns. In a nutshell, he wants me to order the bags. For them, it’s a health and safety issue – they can’t see their toes over the crates etc. I stand there feeling slightly worried.

My intention is to respond with something compelling about ocean plastic statistics and some kind of environmental high ground but in the moment I just blurt out, ‘But I hate plastic bags!’ Or something similar. Short anyway, and not elegant.

He is understanding! He suggests a solution. If I request it in my future deliveries, the drivers will buzz the bell. I can come down with my own bags. We transfer the shop into them and all parties will thus be satisfied. I am sceptical. Does he mean it?

So last week I put it to the test. It unfolded precisely as planned. A compromise has been reached. No more plastic bags for me. Happy health and safety toes for him. I think we may even have beamed at each other at the end.

Waitrose driver and customer in perfect harmony….

Of such small victories life is made.

Sweating for the Cause…

K Kuprat

Inspired, educated and slightly intimidated by this jam-packed-to-the-brim-with-plastic-resourcefulness blogger at www.pfree.co.uk, I blunder once again into the arena that is homemade deodorant.

I have been so culturally conditioned not to perspire that it’s difficult to wean myself off the standard plastic-entombed DO product. Not dwelling too much longer on how fragrant things could get, I put together a recipe for Bergamot & Mint Deodorant. (Courtesy of ‘Cook, Brew and Blend your own Herbs’ by Neal’s Yard Remedies.)

Essentially, this involves putting the following ingredients into a sterilised, glass spray bottle and giving everything a good shake:

1 tsp vegetable glycerin

2.5 tbsp witch hazel

2.5 tbsp lavender water

10 drops bergamot essential oil

8 drops grapefruit essential oil

7 drops lemon essential oil

4 drops peppermint essential oil

1 drop cypress essential oil

 

It’s quite zingy.

Establishing how effective it is will probably come down to standing next to someone on a hot day and watching their expression quite closely for a while…