I love eating out and I love cooking. So when I’d finished reading How to Live Plastic Free that was the first place I really noticed how much plastic prevails in the whole shopping, preparing, eating and storing of food process. So here are my tips for reducing your plastic usage in the world of food.
Drink loose tea and recycle coffee pods
So I didn’t know this but apparently there is plastic fibre in tea bags. The solution is simple – and super trendy right now with the return of tea houses – buy loose-leaf tea and a strainer and make tea the old-fashioned way.
I’m more of a coffee-drinker myself. I love good coffee as does my husband so we have a coffee machine that takes pods. But that really started to bother me because of all the plastic that is used in those pods. Each new cup takes a new pod. Nespresso has a recycling service for their pods but the brand of machine that we had doesn’t so I came up with another solution. Coffee grounds are really great for compost heaps. As a keen gardener I nurture my compost heap with a lot of love so now I take the time to cut open our used coffee pods, empty the coffee grounds into my composter and then rinse out the plastic pods (you should ALWAYS rinse out your recycling because organic matter contaminates it when its being processed by recyclers) and remove the foil lids which I can then put into my recycling. I am not 100% sure what type of plastic my particular pods are made from (they are not labelled with one of the plastic icons) but referring to the 7 types of plastic guide provided kindly by Cambrian Packaging, I expect it falls into Type 5 which can be recycled.
This one is pretty simple – avoid plastic and polystyrene (type 6 plastic which can be recycled but is complicated) containers as much as you can. A lot of my favorite takeaway spots are really coming to the party on making their packaging recyclable or compostable (paper-based which can’t be recycled because of the organic food contamination but break down quickly and safely in compost heaps or landfill). Rocomamas has all paper-based burger and chip carrying vessels as well as paper straws…and I am starting to ask them to decant milkshakes into my reusable coffee mugs when I go and pick up our takeaways to get even further towards zero plastic. Sounds like a mish but just like carrying your own fabric bags to do grocery shopping, it becomes a habit! I now carry a bamboo straw in my handbag and have fabric grocery shopping bags and an always-clean sealable coffee mug in my car so I never have to get my coffee-to-go in a cup with a plastic lid and plastic-lined paper cup.
Storing food at home
I always have leftovers I’m trying to wrap up so cling wrap is a go-to item for me. But then I discovered, quite by accident, Bonnie Bio. This fabulous company makes a variety of compostable products out of corn starch. I have become a regular buyer of their compostable cling wrap, which I put directly into my composter, and their compostable bin bags so that I don’t buy blag plastic bin bags anymore. I still use my plastic containers because they aren’t single-use but I recycle them when they start to degrade. They are Plastic Types 2 or 5 which are recyclable.
If you’re a fan of those little plastic bags for wrapping sandwiches and things you take with you to work and school then revert to wrapping things in wax paper. It keeps things as fresh and dry as plastic bags for the day.
This is by far the hardest place to reduce your plastic consumption. Literally EVERYTHING is wrapped in plastic. It’s hard to avoid. But here are a few things I’m trying to at least minimize:
- Buy fruit and veg loose – the peeps that weigh them for you don’t need a bag and if you’re buying a lot of items of a single kind (like 10 potatoes) then weigh them loose and put them into a fabric shopper bag. The cashier only scans the label so you don’t need to put them in one of those flimsy plastic bags they provide.
- Shop at the market – becoming super trendy to do this now. The old-fashion idea of fishmongers and butchers etc. When you go to the market or visit these artisan-type stores you can get cheese and meat put into your own containers that you bring with you instead of wrapped in plastic and laid out on polystyrene.
- Shop less often – Plastic’s great claim on our grocery shopping is its ability to keep things fresher for longer. Which is super helpful. I live in a household with only one other person so I don’t tend to do a big weekly shop anymore because things will lose their freshness before we can eat them. Now I shop every day or so which means I don’t need plastic to keep things fresh because I eat them within 48 hours of buying them.
- Milk – amazing discovery (though I haven’t yet tried it yet but I fully intend to before the end of this year)! You know that whole English novel idea of having the milkman deliver your milk in glass bottles to your doorstep every week? Well it exists in SA!! Happy Milk delivers to your door! They have a few other fresh beverages as well like Mango and Apple Juice all priced between R15 and R22 per liter which is pretty bang on what you pay at the grocery store!
I hope this helps the start of a plastic free journey for you. I find it really comforting that this is an area where we can have a profound positive effect daily by doing very small things differently. Let me know if it helps you here and click on the links in this story to read up about some of the products I’ve discovered to help me go plastic free.
Next installment –