Tuesday, 29 September 2009


I’ve been thinking quite a bit lately about how much over-packaging there is in the world. At Bron’s barbecue at the beginning of August, one friend turned up with a big pack of beer – something like 24 cans all in one box. Sounds great – after all, buying in bulk is usually better because it cuts down on packaging, and thus on rubbish, in the long run. But what really threw me was the fact that this perfectly adequate cardboard box was wrapped in plastic. Why? It just seems so completely unnecessary – what purpose does it really serve when the cardboard box alone does everything you need it to, i.e. hold all the cans together. And the more I think about it, the more I see it going on.

At this point in time I should probably admit to falling off the plastic wagon with our shopping again yesterday. Baked beans were the main culprit this time. This time, rather than the peer pressure of the cheese, it came down to economics. A single tin of Heinz baked beans costs 65p. Or I could buy two packs of four tins for £3. The math is obvious: 8 tins at 65p each comes to £5.20. Of course, the tins in each pack are kept together by plastic wrapping.

Again, there was the umming and ahhing, the dilly-dallying, but the money side won out. As someone who lives on quite a small budget, it was probably inevitable, but I do feel annoyed about it. What annoys me most – other than the fact that I let the special offer win out over my plastic challenge – is the fact that it’s perfectly feasible to pack the tins together in paper rather than plastic. Companies do it often enough with tomatoes, with beer, why not baked beans?

Tuesday, 22 September 2009

Cut Plastic: Get a Veg Box

Caterpillars? Yummy, just what every good diet needs.

Or not: I now feel a little scared to eat my broccoli without completely mushing it up to make sure it really is just broccoli. But, that said, caterpillars are the only downside I’ve come across with ordering a weekly veg box.

Riverford Farm is my new big thing. Bron and I have been ordering fruit and vegetables from them since the start of summer, and they are amazing. Each week a beautiful cardboard box almost miraculously appears in my shed, full of organic vegetables that are so fresh they still have the earth on them. Oh, and the occasional caterpillar.

Even better than the vegetables (and eggs, and bread, and wine) is Riverford’s packaging policy. Send the veg box back each week and it gets re-used. Tomatoes and mushrooms arrive in lovely little cardboard punnets that can go in your recycling, or can be re-used as seed trays, for storage, or for your child to make that robot they’ve been going on about for the last three days. Bananas, apples, courgettes, and that caterpillary broccoli all come in paper bags.

I’ve never received that bane of vegetable packaging, the plastic punnet, but I should probably confess that they do, on occasion, use plastic bags. But it's not an absolute disaster because Riverford recycles them. Therefore, I don’t count them as plastic entering my home because I know it’s only on a temporary basis. They never go anywhere near my bin: I simply send them back with the empty box. I’m always wondering how much of the plastic that goes out with my recycling actually gets recycled, but by sending these bags back to their source, I feel confident that they really are.