Waste-free shopping is enjoying a resurgence of interest as we learn more about how plastics are harming our environment and our health.
According to the Plastic Pollution Coalition, plastic is harmful for a long list of reasons, namely, because it:
- never goes away
- affects human health
- pollutes our groundwater
- attracts other pollutants
- threatens wildlife
- piles up in the environment
- accumulates in our food chain, and
- costs billions to abate.
For more detail on why these reasons matter, check out the Plastic Pollution Coalition website.
The Kootenay Co-op has supported waste-free shopping since 1975. We offer hundreds of items in bulk, and much of our produce free from plastic wrapping. In our new kitchen, café, and butcher shop, we encourage customers to bring their own containers, and we use recyclable or compostable materials for almost all of our packaging. Our butcher shop is now offering organic chicken in the display case on Wednesdays and Fridays so you can bring your own container. In our grocery aisles, we’re using cellophane that is backyard compostable for all our small packages of nuts and candies. The compostable bags are made from reclaimed wood fibers (rather than GMO corn as many bioplastics are). Read more about compostable bags here. You can also learn more about our BYOC (Bring Your Own Container) contest, and our new charge for paper bags.
Last week, Walmart Canada released their Charter on Plastics with plans to reduce their contribution to Canada’s plastic waste. Although it is heartening to see large chain stores adopting waste-reduction initiatives, its frustrating that it will take several more years before they adopt common-sense practices that are already in practice at our co-op, such as eliminating plastic shopping bags at the checkout, using paper straws, and eliminating toxic PVC and styrofoam,
Canadian Grocer published an article this week about a Toronto retailer implementing a new waste-free shopping system called Loop, which will involve some of the biggest brand names offering their products in re-usable containers with a deposit/return & refill system (like Kootenay Meadows glass milk bottles). The system will also be used in New York City and in Paris and we hope to see it reach the Kootenays someday.
Loblaw spokesperson, Kevin Groh wrote of the new system, “The challenge of plastics won’t be solved by one-off actions. It requires the work of industry, government and consumers–and a system built to address the environmental, social and business opportunities and risks associated with waste.”
Big picture change will require a worldview shift and will only be possible when industry (producers, packaging manufacturers, and recyclers), government and food citizens all work together.
According to Greenpeace Canada, “Canadians generate about 3.25 million tonnes of plastic waste, or about 140,000 garbage trucks’ worth, each year” (as stated by Canadian Grocer). And we’ve been placing too much of the onus on consumers and relying on recycling too heavily for too long, a lesson driven home by China’s recent refusal to accept the globe’s recyclable plastic waste. The key, according to Sarah King, head of an oceans and plastics campaign for Greenpeace Canada, is finding “a model that is more holistic and not so disposal-centric” (Canadian Grocer).
At the Co-op, we are continually looking for ways to help customers shop without waste, and to offer packaging that can be easily composted or recycled. Thanks to our members’ strong support for environmental stewardship, we are constantly on the look-out for ways to improve our waste reduction. Recent changes include the return of bulk dish and laundry soap, compostable bags, a fee for paper bags, recyclable (instead of bioplastic) cutlery, and the compostable bags. We advocate for regional commercial composting, and we are looking at ways to avoid plastic packaging for our Case Lots of produce. Look for an Eco-Shopping Guide this Spring to make zero-waste shopping (and the complications of our region’s recycling) easier for you!