Can you cut 1 Tonne of carbon pollution out of your life?Take the challenge
It seems like everyone is pretty much over plastic right now. Plastic Free July has soared to new heights this year and the ABC's war on waste captured millions of people across Australia, inspiring them to reduce plastic waste. Our own #leaveitontheshelf campaign is gaining worldwide support and we've seen the Ban The Bag campaign go from strength to strength. Coles, Woolworths and Harris Farm have announced plastic bag bans in Australia starting next year and we've seen a push for plastic free supermarket aisles in the UK. We know people want to see an end to single use plastic, so why is it that when we get to the supermarket, every second piece of fruit and veg is still covered in it?
To find out, we interviewed Angus Harris, CO-CEO of Harris Farm Markets who got rid of plastic packaging from their organic fruit and vegetable section in June this year.
Mr Harris said that removing packaging from organic fruit and veg was a natural progression from banning plastic bags and that ultimately they are aiming to make the transition to plastic free. He said that the response from the community has been supportive.
"There have been lots of positive comments online," he said. "Our three most popular Instagram posts ever have been around removing plastic packaging from our stores."
The transition from plastic to plastic-free only took Harris Farm Markets just two weeks to implement and while there have been some challenges, Mr Harris said the move was definitely worth it and that it resulted in more people buying organic produce.
"Straight away we lost the ability to distinguish organic produce at the register, but we are working on solutions such as stickers and are relying on customers to be honest," he said. "Our sales also went down initially because people were buying less of each item but then we saw an increase in the number of people buying organic, which is really positive."
So if it's really that easy - why aren't the rest of the big supermarkets jumping on board?
Contrary to popular belief, there are actually no regulations that enforce plastic packaging on organic or regular fruit and vegetables in Australian supermarkets. Plastic packaging is a choice made by supermarkets in order to gain profit. The packaging makes it easier to identify the more expensive organics at the register and it's quicker for the supermarkets to scan a plastic covered vegetable than to weigh a loose one. In short, the quicker and easier it is to process food at the register, the more money the supermarket will make.
We reached out to Coles and Woolworths to ask if they had plans to phase out plastic packaging on their fruit and vegetables. Woolworths said that the plastic bag ban was part of the overall journey but there were no further commitments to further bans at the moment. Coles did not say whether they had plans to phase out plastic packaging on fruit and vegetables but said "We make every effort to prioritise the selling of loose fruit and vegetables to minimise packaging as much as possible."
The bottom line is that our supermarkets are choosing money and convenience over the health of our planet which is paying the price in the form of choked oceans and overflowing landfills.
But it doesn't have to be this way. We know it's possible for supermarkets to get rid of this pointless plastic packaging because it's already been done. It's up to us to show they can't keep choosing profit over the safety of our planet. Every single one of us has the power to make a change and take action and here's how:
The first thing you can do is pledge to leave pointless plastic packaged fruit and vegetables on the shelf. Supermarkets keep a close eye on what people buy because it's how they make money. By leaving plastic packaging on the shelf you're not only stopping plastic from entering landfill you're sending a clear message by voting with your dollar.
Talk about it
Don't just avoid buying plastic, tell everyone you're not buying plastic and why. Chat to the cashier about why you're not taking a plastic bag. Laugh with them about the onions rolling around on the scale. Brag about your plastic free shopping haul on Instagram. Whatever works for you. Never underestimate the power of leading by example and encouraging the people around you to do the same. Hold your head high and make going plastic free the thing to do.
Join the movement
Don't stop at conversations with friends and family. Take your message all the way to your local MP or to your supermarket store manager. Write a letter, email or call them telling them you're not happy with plastic packaging and you want it to change. If you have a spare hour, donate your time to an organisation working for a plastic free world. Even adding your name to a petition is powerful. The more of us that speak up together, the louder we become.
Ultimately it really does come down to us to enact this change. As long as supermarkets think we are happy, things will stay the same. That's why we need to show them we are not okay with casually ruining the planet. And we know it can sometimes seem like a huge impossible challenge and there's nothing worse than feeling hopeless and alone but we know from experience that the best cure for that is getting out there and taking action!
Read this next: A Self Care Guide To Helping The Planet
We're in a climate emergency and it's going to take all of us to get out of it. That's why 1 Million Women is building a global community of women committed to fighting climate change with our daily actions. To join the (free) movement just click the button below!