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Sadly, it seems plastic wrapped produce fits society’s current food model, a model created by supermarkets! The price we are paying for this disposable model of consumption is too high, the throw-away society that we live in today is unsustainable. The pictures of oceans full of waste plastic created by humans; poisoning our planet and the creatures we share it with are depressing. But they are also motivating, and it is putting serious pressure for change on companies that don’t care.
“Everything is made of plastic Daddy, how did we survive before plastic?” An astute question asked by my 11 year old daughter the other day. I knew some bits of the answer but not all, I grew up with plastic. My parent’s generation would have seen a lot less of the stuff, but it would have been my grand-parent’s generation that led a plastic free life (more or less).
Clearly life without plastic was possible, so how did we get to the point where a staggering 335 million metric tonnes of the stuff were required in 2016 (up from 1.5 million tonnes in 1950) to sustain our current lifestyle. Plastic is quite literally everywhere from the highest mountains to the deepest oceans.
A food industry developed to support the supermarket model of distribution, which shuns local and fresh for cheap and convenient is the reason for much of the single use plastic in circulation today.
Why is there so little progress by major retailers to eliminate single use plastic, a problem of their creation?
Supermarkets raise some seemingly valid points when looking at reasons not to reduce plastic: food waste would increase, supply chains would be compromised, contamination of food would be an issue, freshness would suffer. Dig a little deeper though and you get closer to the truth.
Firstly there is a cost implication in switching from conventional plastic to biodegradable bags. At Green Earth Organics we currently pay over five times the price for compostable bags compared with the plastic alternatives.
Secondly their system depends on long and convoluted supply chains that work better with plastic wrapped produce. Prepacked units are convenient in our world of “grab and go” they are barcoded, efficient, easier to manage and fundamentally they increase sales.
Buying habits are changing and it is causing big food producers and retailers to wake up and take note, it is forcing them to change their model of how they pack and sell their goods.
A reconnection with the type of food we eat and how it is produced is crucial. With the larger spectre of climate change lurking in the background anything that moves us away from this disastrous throw-away model of consumption must be made a priority.
I didn’t have a proper answer for my daughter Hannah, I knew my grand-parents survived pretty-well without plastic, so it was clearly possible. I also know that at Green Earth Organics we manage to pack and deliver all our fresh produce with very little plastic and ALL of our boxes are plastic free. We use paper and plant-based bags and reuse boxes, egg cartons and bags. I know a food system using little plastic is possible. Our generation’s addiction to consumption is changing.
Here’s to less consumption, to fixing things, throwing less away, recycling where we can, and removing plastic where possible from our food chain.
Kenneth & Jenny
PS Thank you for your support, we really appreciate it. www.greenearthorganics.ie