All around the world waste workers risk their lives during the crisis with our trash and recycling, picking up our cardboard and plastics from the pavements while we stay home. So more than ever, isn’t now the time to pre-recycle and bulk buy?
The problem with packaging
So much of our grocery packaging is unnecessary.
Products that have been packed for mainstream supermarkets are the worst as brands try to shield themselves from the strict legislation that is imposed on them due to the complex distribution networks that they undergo.
There’s just no break from it. A friend of mine likes to wander into one of the big four supermarkets and free all the fruit and vegetables she is purchasing at the till from their packaging. Plastic cartons, netting and wrapping end up piled up at the till.
Amazingly, all the cashiers she’s left the mess with have been sympathetic, because they know that the wrapping is overkill.
In an ideal world, responsibility for minimizing packaging should lie with the store, not with the consumer.
There’s a secret to solving the problem of overpacking, and that’s pre-cycling.
What is pre-cycling?
Pre-cycling is where we buy products that don’t need packaging. If we don’t create waste in the first place, we eliminate the need to recycle or dispose if, don’t we?
Pre-cycling is the solution to all of our recycling and upcycling woes.
We know that not every piece of packaging can be recycled, which results in a trip to landfill. Nor can they be given new life, however much the local school teacher tries with their latest recycled craft ideas.
That’s why British supermarkets began trialling unpackaged stores in 2019 – about two decades later than Germany and 2007 than London’s Unpackaged pioneer Catherine Conway – but better late than never eh?
You can cut out the supermarket completely of course. If I lived in a city and near an independent unpackaged store I would be taking my mason jar collection (my pride and joy) and filling it up with dried goods that I can scoop the quantity I need. But I don’t – I live in the Scottish Highlands. So I try to do the same thing by bulk buying from online from my favourite independent wholefoods store, Realplasticfree.com.
Shopping online with them allows me to buy a wide range of excellent quality dried goods packed in home-compostable packaging:
Baking & Cooking, Dried Fruit, Flours, Grains, Herbs, Nuts & Seeds, Muesli & Cereals, Pulses, Rices, Snacks, Spices, Superfoods, Sweeteners, Tea & Coffee, TVP & Soya Produce and Dried Veg.
Realplasticfree.com also offer a very wide range of plastic-free goods, essentials and luxuries, from other well known eco-friendly brands in these categories: Drinks, Food Cupboard; Fresh Fruit & Veg; Health & Beauty; House & Baby and Snacks.
All the orders from Realplasticfree.com are packed using Natureflex, which is a home compostable film, so even if you cannot take the precycling route, you can still order online with Realplasticfree.com safe in the knowledge that your packaging is compostable and has a minimal impact on the environment.
Why bulk buy
Bulk buying is where you buy larger quantities than you normally would and fill your larder up. I’m not just talking flour, pasta, nuts, seeds and raisins. I’m talking laundry powder, floor cleaner, shampoo and conditioner. You can then decant the amount you need into smaller containers (in my case, mason jars – I did tell you I’m obsessed – and have been since I was a child) for daily use.
I first began bulk buying when I lived in London where life was particularly expensive.
My friend invited me to join her bulk buy community – which was forged of like-minded neighbours and friends. Every four months we would place an order and split the costs and then have a convivial party as we picked up our part of the order – some on foot, some on bike, some by taxi. It was great fun.
Since my London days, bulk buying is second nature to me.
The benefits of bulk buying quickly became apparent:
- Bulk buying is cheaper because you’re paying wholesale prices and because you don’t have to foot the cost of single-use plastic.
- You end up buying the essentials, rather than getting tempted by promotions
- Supplies last longer so you don’t have to schlep it to the shops all the time.
- You rarely run out of the essentials, so you always have a stocked up larder so if the worst-happens – like a global pandemic for example – you aren’t left short
- When you have essentials like wholegrains and lentils in bulk, you find yourself cooking from scratch more. New healthy habits form.
Where to begin with bulk buying?
1. a) If you’re a household of many, you can get started straight away. Just create an account on Realplasticfree.com and start selecting your products and how much you want.
b) If you live alone or are a couple, then why not find a group of like-minded individuals. Of course it’s more fun with many.
Warning – once you put the word out you’ll be surprised how many neighbours and friends get on board purely for the convenience factor of not having to go shopping all the time, so you might need to divvy the interested households into smaller bulk buying groups.
2. Agree a schedule of the frequency – and if you’re really organized – a calendar – of when you plan to purchase your Realplasticfree.com bulk buy order for the year ahead.
3. Agree who is responsible for collecting monies, making the purchase each time, and receiving and segregating the order. This can rotate for ease, so no one person has a financial burden. Sometimes it’s easier for one person to decide the bulk buy rules before inviting people to join.
5. When the order is delivered, have a pick up party. You can easily arrange socially distancing by using the doorstep as the pick-up point.
Top tips for bulk buying
- Some items are heavier than others, and with essentials sold by weight, before you begin, try to get an idea of exactly how much items weigh. Take it from me – 500 grams of herbs is a much larger quantity than 500 grams of flour. (Mixed herbs anyone?)
- If you do accidentally over-order too much, ask your bulk buy community if anyone else wants to buy it off you before you return it to Realplasticfree.com. You’d be surprised how accommodating and excited your fellow bulk buy heroes are for five litres of conditioner (again, I’m speaking from experience).
- If you haven’t got the hint already, always, always check your Realplasticfree.com order and check quantities. While clean teeth are important, you probably don’t need 20 tubes of natural toothpaste do you.
- Plan the delivery day for when someone is going to be in to receive the items. This isn’t important just now, but will be post-lockdown, when we’re all roaming the outside world merrily.
Now is the time to pre-cycle and bulk buy! Are you ready to get started with Realplasticfree.com?