Unless you have been hiding under a rock, you have probably heard at least a few whispers about plastic pollution. If you are currently reading this, you probably already know a lot about the problem of plastic invading our planet or are curious to find out how you can reduce your personal plastic waste. Plastic might seem like a too-frequently used buzzword to scare people out of buying certain products, but in reality, the problem of plastic pollution is very real.
Though plastic products, packaging, etc. can be found in virtually every industry and sector, a shocking amount of plastic can be found at the grocery store. Plastic and plastic-coated paper, foil, or cardboard are becoming an increasingly popular method of storage for food and beverages, and regular plastic packaging has been a grocery store staple for decades.
With so much plastic crowding the shelves of our stores, you might think that avoiding plastic packaging is impossible. While it may take a little extra foresight and a little extra attention to your purchases, shifting your shopping practices to reduce your plastic consumption is easier than you might think.
The Plastic Bag Controversy
All over the world, plastic products are used each and every day. From plastic toys, household items, and fashion to the restaurant industry, manufacturing, and industrial production. Plastic is everywhere, and though many plastics are recyclable, only around 20% of global plastic waste is actually recycled. Another 25% is incinerated, and the other 55% simply discarded.
Of the plastic that is simply discarded, some of it finds its way to landfills where they sit for centuries before the process of breaking down even begins. The plastic that doesn’t make it to landfills is destined for lakes, rivers, and oceans, contaminating these vital eco-systems and exposing the wildlife to harmful chemicals and inedible materials. Marine animals are frequently found with plastic items lodged in or around their bodies. Many marine animals cannot distinguish edible items from non-edible ones, thereby consuming large amounts of plastic that can lead to serious illness, injury, and death.
One of the biggest sources of plastic pollution around the world has been single-use plastic bags. Though regions in countries outside of the U.S. have previously made efforts to ban these items, California became the first state in the U.S. to ban plastic bags in 2014. Since then, several other states (including Hawaii and New York) have followed suits, and many cities have imposed bag taxes to incentivize consumers to bring their own, reusable bags.
Though plastic bags are slowly being phased out, the attention paid to the problem of single-use plastic bags does not cover the many other sources of plastic pollution. In grocery stores alone, plastic can be seen everywhere and in every aisle, so despite reducing the number of disposable plastic grocery bags being used, plastic pollution is still very much a problem.
Plastic in Grocery Stores
Walk into virtually any grocery store and you are guaranteed to find a slew of plastic packaged products. Each and every aisle will reveal more products, wrapped tightly in plastic wrap, protected by heavy-duty thick plastic bags, laid out on styrofoam trays, and contained in clear plastic boxes, bottles, and jugs. Many grocery stores only offer plastic packaged products, with affordable options like Trader Joe’s and Aldi packing everything tightly in plastic to avoid damage, contamination, and for added convenience.
Around 98% of all plastic packaging is disposable and single-use, not intended to last or be reused. In many of these cases, the use of plastic is entirely unnecessary. Many cardboard boxed products feature a small, plastic window, allowing customers to see what they are buying. Many fruits and vegetables are packed in layers of plastic, despite having their own protective rind or peel to prevent damage or contamination. Pre-packed snacks come with tons of tiny, single-use plastic bags, and while these may be convenient for tossing in your kiddo’s lunchbox, they put a serious strain on the environment.
Unfortunately, the trend of plastic packaging doesn’t seem to be slowing down. The plastic packaging industry is currently valued at around $344 billion, a number that is set to increase by nearly $100 billion in the next ten years with global plastic demand increasing more than 20%.
Tips for Grocery Shopping Plastic-Free
Though you may not be able to avoid plastic 100% just yet, there are a few simple ways you can reduce the number of plastic-packaged products you buy in order to reduce your personal ecological footprint. Try some of these techniques for reducing plastic consumption and making your trips to the grocery store a little greener:
In the Produce Section
Unless you are shopping at Aldi or Trader Joes, you will likely be able to find unpackaged produce at your local grocery store. Though you may be tempted to reach for one of those plastic produce bags, these single-use items are just as bad for the environment as grocery bags, and cannot be recycled or reused.
If you are choosing hearty fruits or vegetables like potatoes, onions, garlic, citrus, etc., don’t worry about bagging them at all; these types of produce do just fine without a protective layer as they are naturally equipped to protect themselves. For more delicate items like leafy greens, pears, or other easily bruised fruits, consider investing in reusable produce bags. At Wowe Lifestyle, we sell a variety of reusable cotton produce bags that are perfect for toting fruits and veggies back home. Completely reusable, washable, and made from natural organic cotton, these produce bags provide superior protection and won’t do harm to the planet.
At the Butcher Counter
Grabbing a piece of protein for dinners this week? Though it may be tempting to go the easy route and grab a prepacked item from the refrigerator case, try going to the butcher counter instead. Prepacked fish and meat usually rests on styrofoam, is wrapped in plastic wrap, or is vacuum-sealed in thick, non-recyclable plastic.
Instead, go to your butcher counter to select your protein. Many butchers pack their meat and fish in paper, allowing you to completely forego the harmful plastic wrap and styrofoam. If your butcher doesn’t pack in paper consider bringing your own container. Choosing to purchase meat and fish from the butcher counter at your local store will help you save on plastic, and can help you ensure the products you are buying are fresh and good quality.
In the Dry Goods Aisles
When it comes to avoiding plastic packaging, dry goods can be difficult to navigate. Virtually everything is pre-packed in thick plastic bags, containers, cups, etc. Though you likely won’t be able to entirely avoid plastic packaging, certain products can be purchased in bulk, which may help you save on more than just plastic. Buying bulk products can help reduce grocery costs since packaging is always factored into a product’s cost.
If you have never visited your grocery store’s bulk section, we suggest you give it a visit! Many grocery stores sell nuts, seeds, whole grains, flour, sugar, candy, and even pasta in their bulk sections. Use a reusable solid cotton bag from Wowe to store bulk items, then transfer them to a glass jar, bin, or container once you get home. Bulk items can help you cut costs, reduce your plastic pollution, and prevent overbuying since you are in control of how much of a product you buy.
Eco-Friendly Plastic-Free Products
Reducing plastic waste in grocery stores may seem like an uphill battle, but the best way to start the battle is by reducing the overall demand for plastic. By using reusable containers and avoiding plastic products, you can reduce your personal plastic footprint, and potentially help others to discover similar methods of saving on plastic. But what about in other areas of your life? Plastic is everywhere, not just at the grocery store, which is why Wowe focuses on bringing our customers convenient eco-friendly alternatives to everyday items.
Plastic straws are frequently blown into oceans, lakes, and rivers, and can commonly be found lodged in the nostrils, gills, mouths, throats, and stomachs of marine creatures. Next time you stop at Starbucks for that venti frappuccino, say ‘no thank you’ to the plastic straw, and use a stainless steel one instead. Wowe’s reusable stainless steel straws are high-quality, durable, and perfect for enjoying your favorite chilled drink. Once done, simply rinse your straw and reuse it!
Plastic toothbrushes are yet another major contributor to global plastic pollution and are a staple in landfills where they sit for centuries. Rather than spending your money on yet another plastic toothbrush, try Wowe’s eco-friendly bamboo toothbrush! Made from water-resistant, biodegradable bamboo, these toothbrushes give you the same clean as your plastic toothbrush without the negative environmental impact.
Disposable plastic water bottles are bad for the planet, and bad for your health, with a huge number containing BPA and other harmful chemicals. Plastic water bottles take decades to begin breaking down, and though some are recycled, are frequently littered, tossed over the sides of ships, and dropped in parks, forests, and other natural ecosystems. Rather than wasting money on frequent purchases of single-use plastic bottles, try carrying a reusable stainless steel bottle from Wowe. Made from food-grade stainless steel that won’t corrode, rust, or release harmful chemicals, this durable bottle could be your lifelong companion if properly taken care of.
Do you care about the environment and want to learn more about reducing waste and eco-friendly alternatives? Visit the Wowe Lifestyle website to learn more about our products and to read helpful tips for leading a greener, cleaner life.