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How one grocery shopper takes steps to avoid ‘pointless plastic’ – NBC Chicago

Vaseline 2 months ago

Nature wraps bananas and oranges in peels. But in some modern supermarkets they are also packed in plastic bags.

For Judith Enck, this is the epitome of pointless plastic. The baby food aisle is equally unsettling to her, with its rows and rows of mixed fruits, vegetables and meats in single-use pouches that have replaced glass jars.

Less than 10% of plastic is recycled. Most of it is buried, burned or dumped. The recycling rates for glass, aluminum and cardboard are much higher. And cardboard or paper packaging is biodegradable.

The global theme for Earth Day on Monday is planet versus plastic. Plastic production continues to increase worldwide and is expected to triple by 2050 if nothing changes. Most of it is made from fossil fuels and chemicals. As the world moves away from using fossil fuels for electricity and transportation, plastics offer a lifeboat for oil and gas companies as a market that can grow.

The environmental group Earth Day calls for “the end of plastic for the sake of human and planetary health.” People are breathing, eating and drinking more and more small particles of plastic, although researchers say more work is needed to determine their effect on human health. Millions of tons of plastic end up in the ocean every year.

This week, thousands of negotiators and observers representing most of the world’s countries are meeting in Ottawa to draft a treaty to try to end rapidly escalating levels of plastic pollution.

Plastic is everywhere in modern society. That’s evident when you go grocery shopping, says Enck, a former regional administrator for the Environmental Protection Agency who now heads the advocacy group Beyond Plastics. There are things consumers can do if they want to use less plastic.

On a recent trip to the Honest Weight Food Co-op in Albany, Enck purchased almond butter and yogurt in glass containers. She asked that her fish be wrapped in paper and not put in a plastic bag. She dodged the bagged carrots and walked past the lettuce packed in what she calls “plastic coffins.”

She keeps reusable shopping bags in her car, a common practice in New York since the state banned plastic take-out bags several years ago.

“Even small steps make a difference, because large supermarkets notice when people ask for less packaged material. Our children also pay attention. “When they shop with us and they tell you why you reach for the glass jar instead of the plastic jar, that’s an opportunity for education,” she said.

This interview has been edited for clarity and brevity.

AP: How do you avoid plastic packaging and products in the supermarket?

I tell everyone you won’t be perfect, but do your best and focus on the things you buy most often. I just couldn’t keep buying those plastic orange juice jugs. So what I did with the juice was, I bought a really nice glass jug with a lid on it. And for juices and lemonade, I only buy the frozen concentrate. You avoid plastic altogether. It takes some time to melt it and add three cans of water. But most people can.

AP: Many shoppers start in the produce aisle. What are some tips?

I bring reusable cloth bags because I don’t want to use those flimsy plastic bags. So when I need a few apples or a few avocados, I immediately put them in my reusable produce bag. I try to buy loose carrots instead of sliced ​​carrots in small plastic bags. I will never buy bananas if they are in a plastic bag, which is usually not the case in my store, but I have seen that happen. Buying loose peppers is quite easy. I never put broccoli in a plastic bag. You know, you don’t need a lot of those production bags.

The real dilemma is the fresh berries. Now they are available in number two plastic, which should be recyclable. I know Driscoll’s is starting to sell strawberries in a small cardboard box, which I’m waiting for.

AP: What do you do when plastic is unavoidable?

With crackers, you can recycle the outer box if it’s cardboard, but there’s usually a plastic bag or waxy bag inside that you can’t recycle. But you can use that waxy bag or those little plastic bags if you have pets. I don’t have a pet, but my friends use bread bags and chip bags when they clean up pet poop. So why buy poop bags for pets, you can just keep them.

I do use regular garbage bags. I don’t let that discourage me. I’m not trying to fill it up. If you can reduce your waste production, you won’t buy as many bags. I think it’s really important to compost at home if you have the space.

AP: Where have you seen improvement?

The household goods aisle. I’m excited about the changes. For detergent you can get concentrates. I only use powder in the dishwasher. I highly recommend people avoid the plastic pods. And you can recycle the cardboard boxes from the soap powder. You don’t have to get it in plastic. I also think the beverage aisle offers some real opportunities in terms of recycling. Better than most other aisles.

AP: What can be done so shoppers have more options?

The nice thing about paper, cardboard, glass and metal is that it can easily be made from recycled material. And it is actually recyclable. You can put it in your recycling bin. And if a mess does occur, the paper in the cardboard in particular will not stick around for centuries.

If we were to pass a strong packaging law to reduce plastic packaging at the state or national level, packaging engineers would need to think about what happens after the packaging is used. New York is currently considering a law that would reduce plastic packaging. Unless we pass new laws, this will not change, because voluntary commitments from companies are falling short across the board. That’s the only way to solve this.

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