Failure! Yep, that’s right. It was an utter failure…and that’s a hard one to admit!
For those who don’t know, Plastic Free July® is a key initiative of the Plastic Free Foundation that seeks to inspire all of us to work towards a world free of plastic waste. Essentially it’s about following the waste hierarchy of: Reduce, Reuse, Repair, Recycle, Recover, Dispose.
I’ve tried doing it before – last year in London – and then, again, it didn’t go very well.
The problem is, unless you happen to live in a very forward thinking part of the country, county, city or town that has a zero waste shop, it’s likely you’ll have to do your shopping in one of the big supermarkets.
If, however, you live outside of an urban area, you may be lucky enough to be able to visit a farmers property directly and source a lot of products from them – obviously without the additional, largely unnecessary, plastic packaging. Sweet.
It’s likely, like most people reading this, you live near to one of the 923 Tesco stores, 835 Sainsbury’s, 620 Co-ops, 588 Asda’s or 494 Morrisons (not the mention the 37 Waitrose or of course store-less Ocado), you will struggle to find much in the way of plastic free items…well, to caveat that, you may but you’ll pay through the nose for them!
This year, we tried in to complete #PlasticFreeJuly in Barcelona. Some improvements have been made in the shops here. In most of the larger supermarkets (apart from Mercadona), there are compostable alternative bags for fruit and veg. A welcome sight, for sure. We definitely didn’t used to give those little plastic bags that you put your apples and pears into a second thought – now we do.
What’s even better, is we tend to reuse these new bags to line our food waste bin – meaning once it’s full we can just through everything in the larger organic waste bins outside and the job is done.
There are still certain foods through that just have not managed to crack it – rice being the biggest culprit. Obviously, being in the Mediterranean we eat a lot of rice; whether it is in a paella or a risotto we probably eat rice at least twice a week. We also eat a lot of pasta and it is almost impossible to find rice or pasta in plastic free packaging in Barcelona!
We did however, use the time to explore our neighbourhood a little more and found a couple of wonderful “granerias”. Granerias are little shops that sell all types of pulses, nuts, seeds and grains by weight. Lots of their customers bring their own Tupperware to take products away. There’s one particular graneria in Barcelona which has been open – and in the same family’s hands – for over 120 years (and we thought zero waste shops were something new)!
The only problem with these types of stores however, is that they can’t guarantee mitigated risk of cross contamination. There’s no certainty that their customers will respect the fact that the little silver shovel used to scoop gluten free quinoa isn’t to be used to scoop the gluten containing cereal from the dispenser just next door…So if you’re celiac, have a nut allergy or are allergic to any of the 14 major allergens, they may not be the best types of places to shop.
The hardest thing of all though, was trying to something suitable to grab and go – almost impossible. It’s easier to plan ahead for evening meals or lunches at home and take the time to scour the shops, but when you’re in a rush and hunger strikes…it’s a very different proposition.
That has certainly given us a few ideas…
p.s. here's a disheartening one...we needed to buy a new dish sponge. Of course, we opted to go plastic free and after eventually finding one, made from vegetable fibres, we were gutted to find it wrapped in plastic!