Today, it’s impossible to avoid the layers of plastic packaging used to hold our food, but we believe that shopping without any waste doesn’t have to be that difficult. Here’s the proof…
There’s no better feeling than coming home to a fully stocked fridge. Food is at the heart of most people's lives. Whether it’s having a dinner party or experimenting with delicious recipes, there is no escaping the joys of food. But one thing that can’t be avoided is the copious amounts of wasteful plastic and layers of packaging filling up your bin as the week goes by.
A study carried out by the World Wide Fund for Nature [WWF] revealed that Spain consumes roughly 3.84 million tonnes of plastic every year, of which only 38% is recycled. The majority of this ends up in landfill or in our oceans. Does this number really come as a surprise? As soon as you step into a supermarket you are faced with aisles lined with products wrapped in plastic.
With waste-free shopping - location is everything. Lucky for us, there are stores which support the waste-free lifestyle popping up all over Tenerife. Tierra Store in Puerto Colon, which opened in February 2020 , is just one example. “As we are on an Island and avid scuba divers ourselves, the effect of humans on the surrounding environment and especially on the ocean, such as plastic waste, is much more apparent. Yet there aren’t many shops facilitating the reduction of this kind of waste,” says one of its owners, Isabelle Castro. “We decided to open a shop that offers zero-waste options as a step towards bringing the consumption of single-use plastics down in the area.” With these waste-free options you can stock up on all the pulses, grains, chocolate, cereals you could ever want for your kitchen cupboard basics. This leaves just the fresh produce. Little did we realise this could be easily found at our local greengrocers, butchers or fishmongers with just a few changes to the way we buy. All you need to do is bring your own containers and they will be happy to fill them up for you, abandoning the usual plastic wrapping.
Here’s some tips to get you started…
Be Prepared: There are a few things to plan ahead before setting out to do your waste-free shopping. While most shops with waste-free options have their own reusable containers you can buy there, such as glass jars and bottles, here’s a few things that will save you some pennies and even more packaging from landfill...
● Tupperware, jars, old containers - if it’s got a lid it can be used. This also includes cleaning products or toiletries.
● Leak-proof glass bottles can hold oils and vinegars.
● Shopping bag - this could be a tote bag or plastic bag to carry what you buy.
● Cloth bag - this can be used to weigh your fruit, vegetables or storecupboard goods such as pasta.
To buy zero waste items the products are priced upon their weight. So, before filling up any tupperwares, you have to find out the weight of your empty storage container. This is very easy to do when you're in the shop as they always have a set of scales. Simply ask a staff member to weigh it for you. At the butcher and fishmonger it’s even easier, you just ask them to put the raw product in your container, instead of wrapping it up themselves after the product has been weighed. Your tote bag and cloth bag will come in very useful when at the greengrocers. Just fill it up with fruit and vegetables for the week ahead. If you're a meat or fish eater, tupperware is your package free best friend.
Less is more: It’s very easy to get carried away when buying loose ingredients, so it’s important to remember what you need, what you’ll use and what’s the ‘best before’ date. This is particularly relevant when buying fresh produce. In the zero-waste shops, products are usually held in dispensers or bulk bins; you hold your empty container underneath and release the latch until you have all you need or simply scoop out the item from the bins.
Make a note: In larger waste-free shops each item is given a code or a number as a price reference when at the till. In order to save paper, make a note of the code on your phone to give it to the cashier. It’s not all about food: Shops like Tierra are making a packaging-free lifestyle even easier. They also sell toiletries and cleaning products, which you can stock up on. Just refill your reusable toiletry bottles with avocado oil and your old cleaning bottle with an all purpose cleaning spray and washing-up liquid.
No zero-waste shop, no problem: While going to a zero-waste shop makes leaving plastic packaging behind a lot easier, there’s not always one nearby. So, if you have to go to your nearest supermarket chain, there are a few things you can do to avoid waste.
Buy from the deli counters. Most supermarkets have their own counters for meats, cheeses and fish - use this to your advantage. Take your own container and get them to fill that instead.
Buy loose fruit and vegetables. Take your cloth bags with you to fill it up.
Don’t be afraid to buy products based on their packaging. In supermarkets it’s impossible to buy grains not wrapped in plastic, so opt for cardboard packaging where possible as it’s easier to recycle.
Are you feeling adventurous enough to try your own waste-free shopping spree?
Written by Lindsay Castro