It’s been a month since I’ve been keeping track of my garbage, and I was pleased to find out that I am averaging less than 1 grocery bag of garbage and less than one box of recycling a week. Compost however could get as high as 4-5 produce bags a week, or as low as 2-3. I was disappointed and frustrated to find out that 90% of my garbage and recycling was food related. Not that I was surprised. But why has food, something that should so easily be sustainable, become such a huge contributor to waste in our society?
In one word, plastic. Even though I feel good about reducing disposables in my home, when I do throw something out, I think about how I can avoid it in the future. For me, not using disposable paper products is easy. But trying to avoid packaged food…. There are some ‘necessities’ that I’m not sure I could give up.
Here are some of the regular things I buy that I would have to give up if I went on a Non-Disposable food diet:
- enoki and other mushrooms that only come pre-packaged (don’t ask me why I listed that first!)
- chips (oh no!)
- crackers (yikes!)
- cereal (unless I made my own)
- meat (why do they have to package it in those damned styrofoam trays???)
- chocolate (gasp!)
- soy milk (why did they introduce the plastic cap on the cardboard milk carton???)
- orange juice
- English cucumbers
- frozen fish & seafood
- deli meats
- instant noodles (my emergency food!)
- cat food (ok, not for me, alright?)
- any take-out food
- any fast-food
- frozen corn & veggies
- tomato sauce
- salad dressings
- gourmet tomatoes instead of the mealy field tomatoes
- strawberries, blueberries, raspberries, blackberries
- frozen berries
- what about beverages?
That’s what I can think of so far that I buy on a regular basis and can’t get at the bulk store. This list is not as long as it may be for the average person because I have already weaned myself off of many processed foods, due to my daughter’s past allergies. But even when you are trying to eat a whole-food diet, you still run into packaging, some of it unnecessary.
Where to draw the line? Already today, I bought a bag of apples when I could have chosen unbagged ones, and was debating over a bag of organic avocadoes or regular ones that weren’t packaged. I bought another bag of tortilla chips and three cartons of beverages. The grapes came in its own bag that you can’t reuse. I bought chicken, and soup bones packaged in such small quantities that I had to buy three. That’s four more styrofoam trays and plastic wrap. I really hate going down each aisle and adding more potential garbage to my cart.
There used to be a day when plastic didn’t exist and packaging was reusable or compostable. We need to find a way to live without disposable plastic packaging, and non-reusable packaging. It was possible once.
I’m imagining a new grocery chain called “Ye Olde Grocery Store” where nothing is sold in plastic packaging and you have to bring, buy, or pay a deposit on reusable containers. I’d also like to start “Ye Olde Toy Store” where you can choose your favourite unpackaged Littlest Petshop pet from underneath a glass counter, and scoop Lego and buy it by the pound like nails! It can be possible again….