encouraging waste, by The Baker

Yesterday we ran a couple of errands in Ormskirk, which, if run with the children, generally entails buying gingerbread men.

The shop we tend to go to, which represents a strong triumph of location over quality because I end up coming out of the shop peeved more times than not, is Sayer’s, which is one shop along from Ormskirk’s revered clock tower junction righ tin the heart of town.

I enter, and ask for 2 ginger bread men.

Turns out, I can get 3 ginger bread men for 99p, encased in a plastic-fronted package, or 2 at 55p each with no wrapper.

“But that’s wasteful. I only have 2 children, and I don’t want a gingerbread man.” was the most erudite response I could make come out of my mouth. The shop assistant insisted she was merely giving me the information, and I could still just get two of them if I wanted to.

I’m ashamed to say I went for the 3-for-99p offer (J&L polished off the 3rd one amicably between them shortly after we got home, BTW, so not wasted) and was really quite pissed off for a good half an hour.

Why? How does it make sense to pay for additional packaging, throw in another biscuit and charge less??!? I can see how it would make sense if they charged between £1.10 & £1.65, but less than £1.10? It just offends me. And that’s before I even get to the plastic packaging – they already think I’m a nutter in there because I won’t take a paper bag PER GINGERBREAD MAN on the grounds that they just get thrown in the bin outside the door. I’ve beaten them down to a single bag, but they’re clearly so uncomfortable with even that, that I haven’t tried the reckless NO BAG AT ALL.

The women in Waterfields by Home & Bargain are generally fine with all of the above, Remind me, that we should go there instead AND if we did we’d get that little bit more exercise…

Off to go chew my own arm off now, while I try to articulate in my own head just why this troubled me so much.

fakeplastic challenge

Recently, Beth at fakeplasticfish challenged her readers to keep their plastic waste for a week, as a social experiment, and answer some questions about said waste. Here is the entry from the High Lane jury (a phrase which, I now realise, will be meaningless to anyone outside the range of the Eurovision song contest, and who only started following it recently. *sigh* so old, and yet so young…):

We are: Jude (36 – same age as Marilyn Monroe & Princess Diana when they died), Steve (will be 15000 days old in August), Lily (5 1/5), Joel (3 1/2) and Bruiser the cat (14) (who this week created no plastic waste – well done B)

Here’s the picture:


Here’s the list:

1 x 4-pack of beer-can rings (especially bad for sea-birds & small mammals – start with the best, eh?!)
2 x chocolate bar wrappers
1 x sweets bag
2 x chocolate biscuit wrappers
1 x Crisps bag
1 x orange carton 4-pack wrapper
2 x cherry tomatoes plastic carton (R)
1 x sausages container (R)
2 x prawns container (R)
1 x Doughnuts container (R)
1 x chicken kievs container (R)
1 x sliced ham container (R)
3 x cereal packet inner bags
1 x plastic-fronted sandwich bag
1 x hot chocolate jar + lid (R)
1 x coke bottle (R)
1 x water bottle (R)
1 x cheese spread container (R)
3 x takeaway containers (R) + 2 that were thrown away
2 x drinking straws
1 x bananas bag
2 x cherry tomatoes wrappers
1 x grapes bag
7 x sandwich cling film
1 x frankfurters packet
1 x frozen peas bag
1 x washing up sponge
1 x hot dog rolls bag
1 x cheese wrapper
1 x coffee lid inner
1 x cucumber wrapper
1 x yakult wrapper
1 x balloons bag
5 window envelopes
7 mini-cheddars bags + outer bag
2 see-through mailers
1 x coffee jar lid (R)
2 x milk carton lids (the plastic snappy bit off the top of the tetra pack)
1 x 2-pint milk carton (R)
wine bottle top cover (+ cork, I guess)
11 yoghurt pots (R) (+ lids) (+ 2 thrown away @ nursery)
3 x yakult pots (R)
1 old-fashioned light bulb (I’ve included this because I’m sure it must involve plastic somewhere)
2 x dishwasher tablet wrappers
2 x sandwich plastic cartons
4 pairs pull-ups

…all comes to 725g + 4 pairs of pull-ups

I weighed what’s pictured, and then added 10% to allow for: general forgetfulness & the stuff I knew I didn’t have.

There’s already quite a bit of waste eliminated in the way we live & shop, but there is more I could do. I want to get washable wrappers for the kid’s sandwiches, as the cling film (ceran wrap) makes my skin crawl, and just doesn’t feel like a caring way of presenting Lunch. Also, we have baby food containers which could be used for yoghurt, so we could turn 4-6 small yoghurt pots into one (re-usable) large pot. The yakult was free from the milkman, as a sample. We won’t be getting it again – it’s too expensive & wasteful, especially with potentially 4 takers in the household. The chocolate biscuits could be replaced with home-cooked lovely cakes, but I’d still need to separate them out in the box so there would be 7 bits of cling film again. I re-use margarine tubs as lunch boxes rather than buying new, and we wash the plastic spoons used for yoghurt.

Food & vegetable wrappers *could* be reduced. The children are approaching the age where I now have more appetite for shopping in local shops rather than the national-chain supermarket. I already buy veggies from Tesco without using bags, and I take my own shopping bags with me – a cool bag and 5-6 fabric bags. I got them from Asda for just over 50p each and they are THE BEST. Each one stands in for at least 3 supermarket plastic bags. We still have *some* bags coming into the house, but they are usually when Steve stops off to get dinner/beer/chocolate on the way home. I’ve considered putting a bag or two in his car, but I fear they would just stop in the car. We used to use the few bags that came in as nappy sacks, but now that Joel uses the toilet, I’m thinking I will need to start taking some back to the recycling point at the supermarket. When we get groceries delivered (which I *occasionally* do) I ask them to not-include plastic bags (otherwise, the number you get completely trashes any effort make in bag reduction over roughly a 6-month period – one time I got FIFTEEN bags with my stuff. PLEASE!) which although it means you end up with a kitchen table full of stuff, gets you GREEN points on your loyalty card.

Drinking straws – I’ve taken to rinsing & re-using so we’re getting through about 2 per week instead of 14.

Pull-ups – Joel recently started using the toilet. I’m not confident about night-time dryness, so we use pull-ups although if they’re dry in the morning, they get re-used the following night. This is why there aren’t 7 of them. The sandwiches at work needs addressing. Just as I started this week, the sandwich shop we used to get our lunch from rose phoenix-like from the ashes of its gone-bust-ness and started bringing them to the office again. In a crazy-busy week they’ve been a life-saver, but at £5 per day it’s costing too much.

Post – I send back a lot of junk mail, but still get a lot of stuff that could probably be eliminated.

The beer, wine & chocolate needs cutting back anyway.  This week was a relatively light week, as I’m starting on that process already.

I shop at Tesco because although Asda’s at the leading edge with fabulous re-usable bags, our local Asda (now owned by Wal-Mart) is in a low-income area and the right-on-middle class environmentally friendly cleaning products and green products generally are in short supply. There’s almost a sign next to the ONE thing they have in the cleaning products aisle “if you want to get this, and not the 10p-for-5-gallons-own-brand ALERT – you’ve strayed into the wrong supermarket! Buy this now, and leave quickly before you see poor people!!” Also, Tesco give me loyalty card points for bringing my own bags. And finally – it’s nearer.

To answer another of Beth’s questions, I *would* buy from a bulk-bin store. I will do some research to find out if there’s one within a 100-mile radius! I fear the best option may be Costco, which doesn’t solve the problem we’re trying to address here!

update: I keep meaning to re-format this for putting into Beth’s plastic challenge blog, but keep procrastinating. Instead, I think we’ll do another week soon.

Changes that I’ve/we’ve already made:
1. we use zip-loc bags for sandwiches – they get washed each time & so far each has lasted around a month. I have a box of 1000 of them left-over from my old craft company so they may as well get used sometime.
2. we use the baby food pots for yoghurt. They have a good seal & hold about the right amount. I think Lily initially had problems getting the lid off (she’s a delicate flower, eh) but now they’re used to it. And none have gone missing yet.

3. I need to work on the going to local shops & avoiding plastic bags there.

Also, my own mentality is changing.  I was chatting to another mum in the supermarket and she said “we needed more plastic cups”. They were actually melamine (not sure how much difference that makes – still basically plastic, though, right?) but it made me stop and think – I usually refer to melamine as “unbreakable” – however, Joel has proven several times it’s not unbreakable, just harder to break – and honestly – we’re buying plastic stuff for our kids to eat & drink from. It just made me think – we have lots of old crockery which I don’t care if it gets broken. Dishes rarely get thrown on the floor these days. Some turnover of cups might not be a bad thing. Part of me baulks because, if something is dropped on our kitchen floor it shatters & scatters to the 4 corners of the HOUSE, never mind the room (including round corners & up stairs – honestly) and often breaks the floor tiles (first thing I did – ask the kids – dropped the tea jar & broke the floor. Legendary). But the upshot it, we won’t be buying more plastic crockery. At least, not in the short term.