Plastic island

A quick insight into how difficult it is to reduce plastic waste, particularly on an island.

Reducing plastic waste is something we should all be doing, as well as reducing landfill waste. Much of the plastic we use isn’t recyclable and will most likely end up somewhere in the natural world causing a vast array of issues. It takes decades to break down, but it NEVER degrades. Instead we end up with ever smaller plastic particles building up in our food chain. Anyone with an interest in wildlife, conservation, the environment and the natural world should actually make some choices and some changes to reduce their own impact. I’m trying hard to do that at the moment.

We compost most food waste, including teabags, fruit and vegetable peelings, mouldy bread and some leftovers. We’re lucky on Mull when it comes to recycling bins – at home we have glass, tin, paper and plastic recycling bins, we don’t have to trek to a recycling point. But, only HDPE and PET plastics are accepted, leaving a huge amount that we can only add to landfill, especially Poly Propylene. We also have nowhere to recycle tetra pack cartons from things like fruit juice on the island.

I’m actively trying to change my purchases so that I can reduce my waste, especially the plastics. Living on the island makes it even harder though. Our local shop is The Co-operative and I sometimes use the Spar shop when passing. We have local producers markets, but these can sometimes be a 40 mile round trip to reach when they’re in Craignure and the one on my doorstep only runs on a working day. You can see below one trip to The Co-Op and how I got on whilst trying to be plastic aware.

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The “plastic free” stuff! Excepting the stickers on the fruit! 
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The plastic stuff! 

I probably annoyed the check-out lady as I used my own cloth bag for the bread rolls; the only ones offered for baked goods now are full plastic bags, gone are the days of paper. Fruit and vegetable options are also limited, partly because of the shop size. Larger stores would have more options, you could choose packaged leeks for instance, or choose the loose ones. Here, we have one option and almost all are the packaged choice. I now avoid soft fruits in most instances and others like mango and avocado are also heavily packaged. Apples and pears are better, we have some loose options, along with banana and pineapple. Chillies, ginger and garlic are all wrapped in plastic and cause so much waste – we’re forced into buying 5 chillies, or 3 large bulbs of garlic. I can never use that much and living in a small cabin, I don’t have the option of a large freezer for foods. Turnips, leeks, sprouts, potatoes and onions are all plastic packaged. Come on, Co-Op, a turnip in plastic wrap, really?

Milk is a frustration here on the island and other than giving it up, we have no other option. We can’t even change to tetra pack cartons, as they’re just as bad. Islanders have attempted to produce local milk but the red tape means it really isn’t worthwhile. Meat and fish are also problematic. We don’t have a butcher shop to take our own containers too and locally produced meat is vacuum packed. We are having meat free meals on occasion throughout the week for environmental reasons and it reduces a little plastic waste. The trick is making your own in many cases. I’ll be making my own sweet potato wedges next time (they had no loose sweet potatoes in stock tonight) and I’m going to make things like houmous too.

It can’t all fall to the consumer though and the stores need to make some attempt at re-thinking packaging. So, unless you want our next generation buried under our plastic trash   make a good choice next time you’re food shopping and don’t forget your own re-usable bags. Tweet or email your shop and make your voice heard.

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