Tuesday, 17 April 2018

Progress not Perfection on my Zero waste Journey--buying naked produce

Hello my eco-conscious friends. I am happy to report I had another successful day out with my Zero Waste Kit yesterday. My friend Sarah and I went to Skanda Vale and I am happy to say it gets easier and easier to bring my own stuff everywhere I go.

Today I want to talk about things I have doing to reduce my waste. Some have been really successful and others just so-so, but that is how you learn what works--by trial and error.

The first thing we looked at was trying to buy more fruit and veg "naked." Because we are on a tight-as-a-drum budget, money has to be a consideration. Our usual plan of action had been to buy everything from Lidl in a plastic bag because the prices are so good. Lidl sells little to no loose produce, so if we were going to do this, we had to first do a cost analysis.

Now I love this sort of thing. I am happiest when making little charts and diagrams and comparisons. The one thing I struggle with is the math aspect of it. But most places tell you the price per kilogram so I don't have to work it out myself, but occasionally I had to do a little calculating on paper. And then double check by using a calculator and then get Spiderman to check my calculations. Sigh...

We are lucky in that we have several supermarkets that we can get to. Carmarthen has a Lidl and a Tesco and a Marks and Spencer Food Hall all within walking distance of our house. Spiderman works in Lampeter and there is a Sainsburys there.

What I did was write down everything we normally buy in plastic and the price we paid for it, so I would know how much more it would cost to buy it without plastic. The agreement was if it was a small difference between loose and plastic (something like 15p) we would do it, but if it was like 50p or more to get it plastic free, we would continue to buy it bagged.

Would we like not count the cost and just be 100% zero waste? Sure, but it isn't going to happen at this time.

This is what I found:
45p per kg bagged at Lidl, 60p per kg loose at Tesco and Sainsbury--15p more---- YES

£2.83 per kg in plastic at Lidl, £2.75 per kg loose at Tesco, £2.70 per kg loose at Sainsbury--8p to 13p less---YES (this surprised me--most things are more to buy loose)

57p per kg in a plastic net at Lidl, 75p per kg loose at Tesco and Sainsbury--18p more--YES

new potatoes
price varies at Lidl but on average 75p per kg, no loose new potatoes at Tesco, Sainsbury and M&S both sell loose new potatoes for £2.50 per kg--£1.75 more--NO

in a plastic net at Lidl 97p for 5 medium oranges, both Lidl and Tesco sell loose oranges at 30p each so it is 53p more to buy them loose. --Maybe. We have been buying them loose because I have found some savings elsewhere (9p savings on buying 500ml sunflower oil at Poundland not Lidl etc)  I think we will buy them loose, unless there is a sale on, then buy them in a net.

£1.28 per kg in plastic wrap at Lidl, £1.57 per kg loose at Tesco, £1.35 per kg at both M&S and Sainsbury. 7p more--YES.  A thousand times yes. I have bought loose broccoli twice at M&S, both times selecting the biggest head i could (sadly, they have no scale, so i never knew how much it was going to be) but each time paying around 57p and that head of broccoli fed us for three meals which is incredible value for money.

apples(Braeburn or Gala) 
Hard to say about apples at Lidl, there are different kinds in bags all at different prices per kg, they did have some loose ones but they were GINORMOUS and I didn't want to get two apples the size of a baby's head for one kilo, so I looked elsewhere. £2.20 per kg at Tesco, but again...a bit on the big side. That's what makes bags convenient as you get 5-6 smaller ones. £2 per kg at M&S and Sainsbury. I haven't seen the ones at Sainsbury in person, but the M&S ones are a decent size. Not huge, but not titchy either. I got 5 apples at M&S at roughly 37p each. YES

pretty much everywhere you shop, loose peppers are 55p each. I can get a bag of three at Lidl for 92p (sometimes less) That's a 73p difference.--NO

Tinned tomatoes
34p each at Lidl, 35p each  at Tesco. these are both loose without that shrink plastic connector thing. Buying the shrink plastic set of 4 at Tesco, they are only 1 p more. YES

Baked beans (reduced sugar and salt)
we prefer the reduced sugar and salt cowboy beans from Tesco. This really chaps Spiderman's ass (as they say in the American South.) To buy them loose they are 32p each, to buy them with that shrink plastic connector thing they are 4 for £1, making them 25p each. Why should it cost LESS for extra packaging???? We always buy a 4 pack because sometimes i am too tired to cook and you need something easy and healthy. It's 28p more to buy them loose--YES, but grudgingly. 
Side note: I have found that Sainsbury will collect the plastic shrink wrap on multi packs of cans in their carrier bag collection box.

Recycle Now says they also collect:


Plastic carrier bags

Any non-Polyethylene film (e.g. PP, PVC, others)
Plastic bread bags (shake out)
Cling film
Plastic cereal bags i.e. Porridge Oats (not inners from boxed cereals)
Food and drink pouches
Plastic wrappers and ring joiners from multipacks of cans and plastic bottles
Crisp packets
Plastic wrappers from toilet roll and kitchen towel packs
Film lids from ready meals and food trays
Plastic freezer bags 
Plastic magazine and newspaper wrap (type used for home delivery only)
Thin bags used for fruit and veg at supermarkets
Bubble wrap
Low-density polyethylene (LDPE) - resin ID code 4

 The list above will help us recycle some of the things we have previously thrown away because our local counsel doesn't accept them (like plastic wrappers from toilet roll and magazine wrap)

So what have I been using to bag my naked produce? After much consideration, I have chosen to buy rather than make something. I normally am all about the DIY, but the bags needed to be lightweight and see-through and I didn't have anything in my fabric stash that fit the bill.

I ended up buying some of those zippered lingerie bags from Poundland. They are perfect. Easy to fill, machine washable, 10g in weight (so they don't add much to your cost since the supermarket won't subtract the weight of the bag)

Every shop i went to, someone stopped me and marvelled on what a good idea it was and where did I buy them, so hopefully planting seeds of being a good eco-steward.

Here they are in action:
apples and broccoli from M&S

mushrooms and onions from Tesco

The only downside to the bags is they came in a plastic packaging, but the packing says "Please recycle this packaging" as opposed to the dreaded "This package is currently not recyclable" so i am going to try my luck taking it to the Sainsbury bag collection.

So are we mostly plastic free? Well, there are some things like cucumber and lettuce for the snails, salad, kale and spinach for us that are always in plastic and never naked. I can see why kale, spinach and salad need to be bagged, but why-oh-why does a cucumber need a shrink wrap???

We have started using empty salad, kale and spinach bags as a bag in the bathroom rubbish bin. We figured give it a second job before it goes in the black bag.

In my next post, i'll go over some of the other ways we have made changes to reduce what we throw away.

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