Shoppers at the local Waitrose store in Abergavenny at lunch time last Saturday (January 19th) were surprised to find, seated in a shopping trolley outside the main entrance, a life-sized plastic man made from 100% single-use plastic packaging from supermarkets. The label on his chest told us that he would still be here in 500 years, long after the trolley had rusted away.
The plastic man was packed with unrecyclable plastic packaging collected by Plastic Free Abergavenny members over a period of 3 months.
As Sue Harrison said, “We are all trying exceptionally hard to reduce single use plastic in our own food shopping to set a good example but a lot of the time it’s impossible to avoid it.”
After last year’s successful promotion of Plastic Free champions from the many independent cafes and food outlets who have given up using single use plastics the Plastic Free team decided it was time to tackle the supermarkets. Waitrose was first on their list with others to follow.
After constructive discussions with Peter Falcini, the manager of the Abergavenny Waitrose store, it was agreed that the Plastic Free team could set up a stand outside the store on Saturday and hand out leaflets explaining what steps Waitrose is taking to reduce unrecyclable plastic packaging and to advise customers what they could also do to cut out plastic from their supermarket shopping.
The Plastic Free team is pleased to see positive action finally being taken by some supermarkets to reduce single use plastics. Waitrose has made a pledge that all their own label packaging will be recyclable, reusable or home compostable by 2023. This will mean that about 11,000 tonnes of non-recycled plastic will be replaced by more sustainable alternatives. They recently stopped providing plastic cups for takeout coffee, saving 52 million cups per year going to landfill or incineration. This is all very welcome news.
How can shoppers help? The advice is to bring your own shopping bags, bring produce bags for bread and loose fruit and vegetables, bring reusable containers for meat, fish, cheese and your own takeout coffee cup.
According to Diana Wallace the Waitrose customers they spoke to on Saturday were in complete agreement about the urgent need to reduce plastic and they wanted to see swifter action taken by the supermarkets. Many customers said they would email the CEO to flag up concerns about packaging.
Individual actions can make a difference but there needs to be government legislation to really tackle the plastic waste issue. If the new waste strategy proposed by the UK government comes into effect all supermarkets and producers of packaging waste will be required to cover the net costs of household recycling collections by local authorities. Currently council tax payers pay for 90% of the cost of collecting and disposing of household waste while the businesses that produce the packaging only contribute 10%. Just think what that money could be spent on.