January 13, 2019

Sustainable Supermarket Grocery Shop

Here's what happened when we tried to go plastic free for our weekly shop in a supermarket.

Last year the world’s first plastic-free aisle in a supermarket opened in the Netherlands which was seen as a ‘landmark moment for the fight against plastic pollution’.[1] Later in 2018, a north London supermarket Thornton Budgens in Belsize Park introduced the first plastic-free zone in Britain. Converting more than 1,700 product lines to non-plastic and hoping to be ‘virtually plastic-free’ by 2021.[2] With the start of the new year, many of us have made the conscious decision to reduce the amount of plastic we use and limit that which we waste. The big question is, is it possible to go plastic free without costing the earth (in every sense!) in a large chain supermarket?


Armed with our trolley and bags for life, we started off in the vegetable aisle which deceivingly makes the plastic wrap items look cheaper than the loose, which are priced per KG rather than per item.


However, our faith was restored as we read the small print below the price per item, most of the loose vegies were actually cheaper per kg!

Our first hurdle was finding something to put all our loose fruit and veg in, with only plastic bags on offer we had to be a little creative. Using a cardboard box that was floating around we weighed all our bits and pieces on the scales, printed off a label and threw it all into the box (don’t judge, we love Brussel sprouts!). Unfortunately, it seems the post-Christmas restock was a little behind schedule as the loose potatoes were all sold out and almost double the price of potatoes in a plastic bag, which was the only veg we found which didn’t encourage the general public to choose the plastic free option. Our next obstacle was kale, currently not offered in anything other than a plastic bag.

So far so good, the next aisle was meat and it all went downhill from there. Everything is wrapped in plastic, most with the foam tray underneath – seemingly unavoidable (keep scrolling down, we have a solution!). Although we are aware meat is not an efficient use of resources, we still love it a few times a week and feel it is more about moderation than completely cutting it out. However, meat alternatives are not much better, as we were faced with the same plastic bags when buying Quorn. 

The further into the shop we went, the more plastic we faced and the harder it became to avoid plastic. Unless you are actively trying to avoid it, you don’t realise how pervasive plastic truly is in our lives, coating almost everything from pasta, rice, milk, bread, butter and multipacks. Our saving grace were the tins and glass jars on offer, and the eggs in a cardboard carton. Luckily, we didn’t have to buy shampoo, washing up liquid, cheese or fish this week as these would have caused a serious issue.

 As a first attempt, this was a step in the right direction with a long way to go before we are plastic free. A few things I have taken from this first experience:

  1. I was happily surprised that the loose vegetables were mostly cheaper than the plastic wrapped option and will never look back.
  2. Some stores do, but every supermarket should offer paper bags for their loose items and used cardboard boxes for customers to carry their shopping in.
  3. BE PREPARED. Morrisons recently made the effort to reduce their plastic use by encouraging customers to bring their own container for meat and fish. Next time, I will do the same![3]

Want to do more? Why not find out where your local milkman is to deliver glass bottles and support local businesses. www.findmeamilkman.net

I recently got these Beeswax wraps for Christmas and they are an amazing alternative to clingfilm! 

Forgot to make a packed lunch but don’t want to use plastic cutlery? Head over to M&S who have switched to wooden cutlery in their food hall in an effort to reduce their plastic.

What’s next? We are going go plastic-free for a week and will also be testing out solid shampoo and conditioner bars. Stay tuned!

If you need any further persuasion to reduce your plastic, watch these videos:




[1] Sian Sutherland, co-founder of A Plastic Planet, the group behind the campaign

[2] https://www.bbc.co.uk/newsround/46141685

[3] https://my.morrisons.com/blog/community/bring-your-own-container/

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