From chips to dip, milk to mayonnaise, grocery stores are filled to the brim with snacks, condiments and other kitchen staples. Most of them — with the exception of fresh produce —
come packaged in plastic. While plastic is very practical, its molecular structure makes it difficult to break down, often winding up in landfills and harming the environment. In fact, landfills are the eventual destinations for 60 per cent of the world's plastics, according to the Environmental Defence.
A cleaner planet is a shared responsibility and people can do their part by adjusting their grocery shopping habits.
"10,000 metric tons of plastic are removed from the Great Lakes each year."
Reduce, reuse, recycle. This basic concept is one of the more straightforward ways people can use smaller amounts of plastic. Unfortunately, too few in the world are recycling. Just 11 per cent of Canadians, for example, say they recycle plastics on a regular basis, the Environmental Defence reported. This is part of the reason an estimated 10,000 metric tons of plastic are removed from the Great Lakes, on average, per year.
The Toronto-based advocacy agency recommends Canada should try to recycle at least 85 per cent of its plastics by 2025 and is calling on lawmakers to pass comprehensive legislation that would better address what many refer to as an ecological crisis.
What businesses are doing to help
Hoping their efforts will inspire others to follow suit is the retailer Iceland. Based in the United Kingdom, the grocery store chain specializing in frozen foods is believed to be the first major supermarket franchise whose aim is phasing out single-use plastics by 2024 or earlier, CBC News reported.
Thornton's Budgens, another U.K. chain, said that it's virtually eliminated plastic packaging from over 2,000 products that previously used the synthetic material for storage or distribution purposes.
According to the Recycling Council of Ontario, over 1 billion single-use plastic bags are handed out each year in Canada alone. And just in plastic bottled waters alone, Canadians go through around 2.5 billion litres annually.
Here are a few tips for how you can follow the Three R's lifestyle in your shopping habits:
Stop using plastic bags
It sounds simple enough, but given their availability and the force of habit, plastic bags are being used regularly, often when they can be easily swapped out for something far more environmentally friendly. Increasingly, supermarkets are selling cloth-based bags, which can be re-used and are easily washable. Stores are also turning to biodegradable bags, which are an eco-friendly solution when plastic is necessary.
Look for labeling indicating change
A number of businesses and distributors are packing their bottles and canisters in readily compostable materials and are making consumers aware of these changes either on their websites or through their labeling. You can promote these practices by more regularly purchasing the items these companies produce.
BYOC: Bring Your Own Containers
Talk to your grocer about this, as you may be able to bring containers from home that can help to really cut down on the use of plastic bags.
The plastics problem won't be solved overnight. However, a collective effort can help turn the tide, making the oceans cleaner and the planet as a whole much healthier.