Plastic, plastic everywhere, 12 million tonnes are dumped into the oceans every year, and there are nearly 5 trillion pieces of plastic floating in the ocean. Plastic production has increased from 2.1 million tonnes in 1950 to 391 million tonnes in 2021!! And get this every piece of plastic ever produced is still with us somewhere, (unless it has been burned). The largest market for plastic today is packaging materials. (Ref National Geographic).
If you follow us on Instagram check out my latest little video talking about plastic in one of our polytunnels, I recognise the irony here by the way, but you will need to watch to figure out why 🙂
We have been grappling with this plastic challenge on our farm for some time and we still have much to do, but it struck me today as I was talking to Ella our packing manager that the detail really does matter.
I was asking whether we could use tape guns to help with wrapping our courier boxes and she told me, the paper tape we use doesn’t work with them. Some time ago we switched from the plastic tape to the harder to use and more expensive paper tape. It was worth it though, it looks better, it feels better and crucially it is NOT PLASTIC!
That’s a small detail but an important one. Fossil fuel companies are now looking to push more plastic on us as the pressure comes on them to stop burning their dirty hydrocarbons. They make the stuff and giant food businesses and retailers profit from the stuff, so why aren’t they responsible for the cost of cleaning up this mess.
Our food system is now nearly 100% reliant on throwing packaging away after a single use and we really have to work hard if we want to choose differently. As much as emissions from burning fossil fuels such as carbon dioxide and methane are the unseen waste products of our energy system, plastic waste is the very real and identifiable byproduct of our current retail food system
There is no easy quick fix to this problem. Supermarkets and large food manufacturers have the resources and the power to make far reaching and profound changes. But when profit is their ultimate goal, their actions will only align with sustainability when the consumer clearly demands it and they know their business will suffer if they don’t toe the line.
16 years ago I spoke with a supplier about compostable bags, I am reasonably confident that he thought I had lost my marbles. It wasn’t until some years later that compostable bags were available that would keep our salad fresh and now that’s all we use.
But of course, reuse is the holy grail of packaging, a tricky and costly system to put in place. Although I do recall once a upon a time not that long ago all milk used to come in glass bottles that were recollected and reused.
We do everything we can to eliminate plastic. On our local delivery routes in Galway, Dublin, Wicklow, Mayo and Limerick we recollect our boxes each week and reuse them up to 10 times. Where we can’t recollect our boxes for all our customers on our National delivery routes we only use compostable materials and the packaging to protect your goods is made via a shredder from waste cardboard in our packing shed (which intself is reuse).
All of these materials can be recycled or composted at home. (as an aside: remember on your compost heap you need three parts carbon to one part nitrogen.!) Where possible all our loose produce is packed in paper, and for fresh greens such as salad we use compostable plant based bags. We also have an amazing array of plastic free groceries. Where ever you see the “pf” on our site you will know the grocery product is plastic free.
So, where you can, avoid plastic, it is hard I know, but remember all these little positive changes are picked up by the big producers and this effects real change. We have more power than we realise.
Thanks for your support.
PS We don’t know why but over the last couple of weeks we have seen a fall off in ordering, we know with the half term coming up we expect a tough couple of weeks. As a small independent retailer and of course a food producer, every order counts. So please if you can at all keep us in mind for your fresh produce and sustainable groceries, thank you! Click here to see all the IRISH organic produce we have here.