The trigger for this blog post was a recent CBC Marketplace episode about how Canadian grocery stores can reduce or eliminate plastics by adopting the methods and means of a UK grocery store:
We really MUST begin eliminating single-use disposable plastics from our daily routines. If there is one product of the industrial era (besides fossil fuels themselves) that can be targeted to help clean up Earth, it’s plastic. When I look at my family’s ‘garbage’ bin – the stuff that is not compostable nor recyclable – at least 90% is composed of single-use disposable plastic: bread bags, cereal bags, cheese wrappers, milk bags (yes, I’m in Stone Age Ontario!).
There is no escaping it – or is there.
We have all been bombarded with the problem and are continuously reminded we need to do something. Unfortunately, we as individuals, are somewhat limited in our choices to effect real change without having business and industry on-side as well.
- What happens when you give up plastic, and is it a lifestyle option for the lucky few? (The Guardian)
With grocery stores having moved almost entirely to plastic-wrapped everything, we are somewhat handcuffed in our choices. Yes, we could shop at farmers markets, but there are limitations there that don’t really make them the best choice from a carbon footprint perspective.
- Explainer: The carbon footprint of local versus global food (Globe & Mail)
- Is buying local truly the best way to reduce GHG emissions? (Canadian Shippers)
- Farmers Markets: Great, But Still Not Perfect (TreeHugger)
- ‘People are being duped’: CBC exposes homegrown lies at farmers markets (CBC News)
- Is Buying Local Food the Best Way to Go on a Carbon Diet? (TreeHugger – well-researched info here)
- If It’s Fresh and Local, Is It Always Greener? (NYTimes, dated but still relevant)
But our grocery stores could be doing a lot more to combat our love affair with plastics, as proven by an Amsterdam store that is moving towards ‘plastic-free’ shopping:
…and a UK store – the one discussed in the CBC Marketplace piece – that has gone (completely?) plastic-free:
- Budgen’s store becomes one of world’s first to have plastic-free zones (The Independent)
However, it is important to note that all is not rosy in the plastic-free zone, as many bio-degradable plastics are not the green alternative they are touted as being:
- The big awful truth about biodegradable plastics (TreeHugger)
The trouble is, we need a paradigm shift; we need to change the ways we do things. Some of that change means trading in decades of convenience created by plastics.
So, where do we go from here?
Well, here are a few ideas to get us started and t show us that at least some jurisdictions and corporations are beginning t take their first few ‘baby steps’ towards tackling the global problem of plastics:
- More recycling won’t stop the plastics problem (Scientific American)
- 8 steps to solve the ocean’s plastic problem (World Economic Forum)
- Stanford ocean and engineering experts discuss scale of plastic waste problem and potential solutions (Stanford.edu)
- What are businesses doing to turn off the plastics tap? (UNEP)
- Industry wants zero plastic packing in Canada’s landfills by 2040 (CBC News)
- 9 brilliant ways the UK is cracking down on plastics (Global Citizen)