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How recyclable is your weekly food shop?

by Craig Pryce October 25, 2019

We all have household recycling bins in the UK, but how much of your waste ends up in that bin and how much ends up in the general waste bin meaning it is destined for landfill?

Which? conducted a study and discovered that only 52 per cent of packaging from Britain’s most popular food items could be placed in recycling bins.

This left 48 per cent of the packaging for the general waste bin.

Of course, this figure varies from household to household, depending on what each chooses to eat and drink and where they shop.

Why is food packaged?

Food is packaged to keep it fresher for longer and to protect it from damage in transit and on supermarket shelves.

There has been much debate in recent years over the need for plastic wrapping on fruit and vegetables though — for example, bananas and oranges, which have their own in-built protection.

While some fruit and veg are now available loose in supermarkets, some are still being sold in single-use plastic wrapping.

Back in 2016, a pre-peeled orange packed in plastic packaging was put on sale in Whole Foods. There was such a backlash about this on social media that is was soon pulled from shelves never to return.

Some products require some form of packaging to be sold, such as ready meals. However, the debate there is that this packaging needs to be made eco-friendlier.

Black plastic has been the most popular choice by manufacturers until recent times, but this is now being reassessed by many as it isn’t recyclable kerbside.

What are supermarkets doing about plastic packaging?

The amount of packaging you recycle will depend upon where you shop, so you may be wondering how your local supermarket is faring when it comes to eco-friendly plastic-related changes.

Greenpeace ranked UK supermarkets based on four factors regarding their single-use plastic policies:

  • Their reduction of single-use plastic
  • Their elimination of non-recyclable plastic
  • How much they are influencing their suppliers
  • Their transparency

The results are below, with 1 being the best rated and 10 being the worst:

  1. Iceland
  2. Morrisons
  3. Waitrose & Partners
  4. M&S
  5. Tesco
  6. ASDA
  7. Co-op
  8. Aldi
  9. Lidl
  10. Sainsbury’s

Where else can you shop to avoid plastic?

woman shopping without single-use plastic

If you want to give your recycling bin a boost, it might be time to consider other options for food shopping — at least until supermarkets sort out the plastic situation.

Market

For cheap, packaging-free fruit and vegetables, try heading to your local market.

Here you’ll find an abundance of delicious produce, including some you may not find at your supermarket.

Just remember to take your own reusable bags with you.

Zero waste shop

If you’re lucky enough to live in a town with a ‘zero waste’ or refill shop, then that would be an ideal place to refill your cupboards.

Here you will find everything you might need — from fresh produce to dried pasta, from shampoo to spices — all without any single-use plastic in sight.

Take your own containers to fill or buy new reusable containers while you’re there.

Veg box delivery

Sign up to a veg box delivery and receive a recyclable box of unpackaged veggies straight to your door.

These are often super fresh and deliciously organic, too.

 

Are you interested in recycling? Find out the six big benefits of recycling in our blog post.



Craig Pryce
Craig Pryce

Author