My friend Emily writes: “I looked in my fridge and, so much plastic. I feel like ALL the food we eat on a regular basis comes in plastic! Milk, bread, fake meat, yogurt.” This was followed by a string of emojis. I know exactly how she feels. In my post Never Approaching Zero, I reflected on how we are creating too much waste and how we hide it from ourselves by sending it to the landfill.
When you look around your house (mostly the kitchen and the bathroom), you see the waste sitting in plain view, ready to be banished to a thousands-of-years-long exile on a stretch of land in a nearby town. It’s overwhelming.
One of the main things I expect to be tackling in my war on plastic is the way we bring food into this house. In her book Zero Waste Home, Bea Johnson talks about the first R: Refuse. Figuring out how to say NO to the plastic on our food is the biggest challenge.
Let’s start with the picture above. We get a box of produce delivered every Friday. This is a great service. I get to pick what I want delivered, it’s fresh and organic, and it shows up on our doorstep before we wake up. The main problem with it is glaring though. Look at all that plastic! How much of it is necessary? I understand that the blueberries must be contained in something that will protect them on their journey, but need to sweet potatoes be packaged? And couldn’t the little potatoes and brussel sprouts be put in a paper bag?
I sent an email to the company about this on Day 1, and received this reply:
We are always working on ways to make our deliveries both environmentally sustainable as well as protecting our produce in the delivery process, and that balance is hard to find without some plastic usage for our company at this time.
We are conscious of this usage, and are looking into ways to reduce or eliminate plastic without making the box cost go up, as environmentally friendly options can be more costly and we want to protect affordability and accessibility of our service to all customers. As of now we have a no plastic liner option that we have added to your account, which reduces the plastic in the box by removing the outer plastic bag. Unfortunately, at this time the No Plastic alert will not reflect any of the produce items that are packaged in bags, netting, and clam shells. These items come already prepackaged by our producers/farmers so unfortunately we cannot modify how they are sent to us.
It’s always the fault of someone a step earlier in the process, essentially. They are saying, “We don’t like it either but that’s how we get it,” which is the same thing I say about the plastic in our house.
The effect of their No Plastic alert is that the larger plastic you see on the left will be eliminated from my delivery. What about their other customers? I am going to write back to suggest that they either stop including that in everyone’s order, or give people an option in their account settings to say No Plastic. If there are enough people who select that, they may be able to give valuable feedback to their suppliers.
I know that the plastic isn’t necessary. There’s another delivery service that I used to use that had no plastic. The problem was, I couldn’t select what I wanted, and would end up with a box full of eggplants or squash that my family was sick of. Food went to waste.
I also get a delivery from the Bay Area Milkman on Thursdays. I am really pleased with how little plastic waste there is in his products. I get milk and half and half in glass containers that he picks up and returns to this dairy. The eggs and butter are in cardboard and waxed paper, which are recyclable and compostable. It feels like an actual improvement both from a waste perspective and from a quality perspective. Now I need to think this through for every other product in the kitchen.