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What can you do about excessive packaging at the supermarket?

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The best way to buy food is at your local farmer's market or local independent shops, or through a box scheme, where the food isn't shrink-wrapped to within an inch of its life, and we can put it in reusable bags we've brought with us.

Pick foods that have a relatively low level of packaging. If you're buying apples for example, pick the loose ones to put into a bag yourself (you could even take bags with you for this purpose). Don't tie up the top too tightly: you can reuse it then.

But it's at the checkout that it gets interesting. In November 2006 environment minister Ben Bradshaw proclaimed that we should all rid our foodstuffs of their excessive packaging at the checkout, and leave it for the supermarket to deal with. The Guardian ran an amusing article at the time on the response its writers met at the various UK supermarkets when they tried this tactic: Guardian Article.

But we cannot hide behind good old British avoidance of embarrassment for ever. Campaigns against excessive supermarket packaging have been running for a while in other European countries such as Ireland (Report on a campaign group's attempt to return packaging to a supermarket) and Germany.

The problem is that while unpacking your food at the checkout, or returning it at a later date, might make a point, it cannot be guaranteed that everything you leave behind will not be chucked into the landfill bin. At least if you take it home it can be sorted and recycled properly.

As with most underground movements, this one needs to grow considerably before the supermarkets can be forced to take action. They are ruled by profits and bottom lines. If enough people start voting with their wallets, they will have to start listening to their customers. How many people leaving their packaging at the checkout it will take before they start to believe that it is not necessary to put three layers of wrapping on food is a total unknown.



This question was asked on the wiki: WorldHealer.

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