When I was in London last week, I heard a story on the BBC radio station talking to various experts in the industry about what we need to do to combat plastic waste. One of the women they interviewed was an expert on environmental sustainability and she brought up an interesting point. She highlighted that food waste is a much bigger issue in the market right now and, unfortunately, single-use plastics are an important part of managing food waste. Food generation and distribution is a much bigger tax on our environment and plastics help minimize that impact on a large scale.
So if we want to talk about single-use plastics in relation to food, we need to talk about our supermarkets and the scale of food production and consumption in first-world countries. Walk into any supermarket and you’ll see massive amounts of food - a veritable vegetable cornucopia. The reality is, most of that food won’t get eaten. Plastics, however, play an important role in allowing food distribution and preservation to help reduce the amount of food waste. Plastic packaging can extend the shelf like of meat and produce by as much as 20 days… this also reduces the amount of restocking shipments and resulting greenhouse gases from shipping. It’s a bit like being caught between a rock in a hard place.
The reality is that there are so many issues in modern food culture that it’s incredibly hard to fix it with just one initiative. It’s increasingly clear to me, the combatting single-use plastics goes beyond bringing reusable bags to the store… it’s about changing the way we shop completely. In an effort to make bigger changes, I’m focusing on finding local food sources in my area that help reduce the amount of travel and plastic required in food distribution.
Interested in other ways to reduce your plastic footprint? Check out these steps from My Plastic Free Life.