We are often asked what are we doing about the supermarkets and all the plastic they dish out, and it’s a tricky one. Our local store managers cannot bring about the changes that our local business owners can and as a volunteer, grassroots group our main concern is working with our local community, encouraging positive changes within it and supporting it.
But supermarkets, like it or not, form a huge part of our community too. In Penzance we are literally surrounded by them and they, again like it or not, are the way most of us choose to shop. We feel we need to because it’s ‘cheaper’ and ‘quicker’ … another symptom of the mass consumerism and rush-about that has permeated our lives.
Supermarkets distribute 112,000 pieces of plastic packaging every MINUTE* … that’s one of the reasons we encourage people to start looking elsewhere for products which don’t need to be wrapped! Things like loose fruit and veg, refill dried goods, paper wrapped bread and meat are all available on our local high street. But we still need the big stores to change. They contribute excessively to the plastic footprint of where we live.
So, earlier this month we took part in the UK’s first ever nationwide Mass Unwrap, to help put pressure on the supermarkets. We helped trial the concept last year for Surfers Against Sewage and this year Plastic Free Communities across Britain joined forces to hand back unnecessary plastic at the tills. The result was a clear message to industry; reduce, rethink and take responsibility.
Over the course of the national action up to nine pieces of plastic a minute were handed back. In Penzance our volunteers doing a two hour slot at Tesco, Morrisons and Sainsbury’s collected 1050 pieces of plastic. We also had some brilliant conversations with shoppers who told us that they wanted to shop plastic free, but the supermarkets gave very little option to do so. It was heartening to hear from so many who are starting to buy loose fruit and veg locally instead and are being far more conscious about their weekly shop.
Our three events in Penzance with Plastic Free Marazion helped shine a light on excessive supermarket packaging but also contributed to the bigger picture. Through our connection with SAS Plastic Free Communities we are provided a route to be able to put pressure on government and industry. Our evidence will help raise awareness and inform campaigns, We need to say a huge thank you to the local store managers who accommodated us on the day but also to the shoppers who took part. Your action counts. Let’s keep on!
*Stats: Environmental Investigation Agency/Greenpeace ‘Checking Out on Plastics’ report