Struggle #1: Finding plastic-free groceries and bulk food stores

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 Last updated: 14.01.2020

Struggle #1: Finding plastic-free groceries

A few days ago I wrote a post about my 3 resolutions to reduce plastic and what became of them.

After writing, I felt really hyped and used that motivation to go and explore stores to find as many plastic-free groceries as possible.

Buying bulk seems to be the best option when you try to live plastic-free for a month. So yesterday was going to be the day.

In this post I will share my experience and insights from that day with you.

Browsing as a way of doing research

At first I tried my luck at an organic food store.

I entered the store with the mere intention to figure out all the plastic-free options they have.

Browsing takes time. But I was ready to invest that time, since I had made it my challenge to reduce my plastic footprint and live plastic-free for a month.

I was convinced that taking the time it needed to find the best alternatives now, was the key to suceeding later on.

The problem: Plastic-free non-organics vs. organics in plastic

Naturally, I buy a lot of fresh produce to eat healthy, so my first stop was the veggie and fruit section.

In normal grocery stores you find a lot of plastic-free non-organic produce and some organic stuff that generally is sold in plastic packaging in order to avoid people cheating to buy organics for the regular, cheaper price.

But now I was in a store that specialized on selling only organic products.

I had always thought that the trend for organics went hand in hand with the wish for more sustainability.

Yet one third of the produce was prepacked in plastic.

Why? – I couldn’t understand it and was disappointed.

Of course, I realize that the plastic packaging likely comes from the producer or retailer that resells the veggies and fruit to the store. There are likely also a lot of regulations. Maybe it was done for other reasons, like freshness.

But I assume that the main reason is to make it easier to differentiate organic from non-organic produce in regular grocery stores.

So to simplify the process during packing, the prodcer/retailer simply packs everything into plastic.

That’s just what I think. But if anyone of you knows, please let me know! I’d love to hear the facts.

Plastic is everywhere, plastic-free rare

Next I walked through all the lanes.

I was looking mainly for dried goods like couscous, rice, pasta or flour. I.e. Things that staple well.

It was interesting to see what is out there.

Many companies were producing organic, fairtrade or vegan products. Great!

But wherever I looked it seemed everything was packed in plastic.

I could not even find plastic-free staples like couscous, chickpeas, rice, noodles, etc.

Again I was disappointed.

It made me wonder, if the demand for ‘plastic-free’ or ‘zero waste’ products is really that low.

Did people accept it because they did not have the time to find plastic-free alternatives?
Was it because they felt, they had no influence over this?
Or simply because they didn’t care?“

To not leave emtpy handed, after spending what felt like an hour in the store, I ended up buying some pumpkin seeds and hemp flour.

Both for their nutritional values and because they were packed in paper.

‘Cheated’ – hidden plastic

At least that was what I had thought. At home I opened them and realized that the inside was coated with plastic. Geez!

Any other normal flour is packed in paper, so why did these have to be packed in plastic inside?

I wish it would be easier to tell this beforehand.

The same thing happened with the washing detergent I bought that day.

I had brought empty bottles with me so that I could fill them up with liquid washing detergent in our local bulk store which was to be my next stop. But when I saw that this store sold eco wash powder I decided to go with that.

I always liked how washing powder comes in cardboard packaging.

Unfortunately not in this case!

When I opened the package to do my laundry I found that it was double packed inside, of course in plastic.

On top of that there was a plastic measuring cup.

As if the billions of households in the world would not already have one or more of them!

Do we really need a new one with each package that we buy? Isn’t it possible to sell a package with and one without?

If the shop hadn’t been so far away, I would have brought it back right away.

In my eyes there is zero need for plastic here. And the many other washing powders that come in plastic-free packages and without the measuring cup prove that.

Why can’t it be plastic-free?

I had not expected this from a company that produces eco products.

I had also not expected to find that most of the products in an organic and fairtrade store would be packed in plastic.

Yet that was the reality.

When I walked through the aissles, I often picked up things that seemed to be packed in paper / cardboard.

Yet when picking them up to squeeze or shake the package, I often could hear plastic inside.

Disappointing.

In general, it seems the dilemma of buying either plastic-free or organic items in plastic can not yet be easily (=comfortably) solved.

Whether you shop at a regular supermarket or one commited to selling organic and / or fairtrade products only, buying plastic-free remains a challenge for now.

If you want to live plastic-free, be prepared that it can be a struggle.

I just wanted to make sure that you know this, because now you will be mentally pepared.

But enough preparation, let’s move on to the solutions that I found in my hometown.

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