Taking a guess at a weekly shop, you probably have yoghurts, cream (for Sunday dessert!), maybe some cottage cheese or coleslaw. When you think about how many food items come in plastic pots these days, you could have quite a number of them at any one time. Probably in your freezer as well (that delicious ice cream you cannot refuse!).
There has been much reported on plastic bottles, but other containers such as plastic pots (https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-45058971) can be made from cheaply produced plastic, laden with chemicals.
It’s time to wake up and smell the coffee and more importantly, say ‘goodbye’ to plastic storage pots. As harmless as they may seem, and as convenient as it is to have them for breakfast meals, packed lunches or salad fillers, there is a much more ‘sinister’ end to them when you throw them into your happily recycled rubbish bin.
It has come to light that such plastic containers contain some of the ‘nastier’ elements involved in the production of plastic, which negates them from being responsibly recycled. It doesn’t matter how conscious you are about recycling, what you do has no effect on where these plastic cartons end up. Many of the containers used are comprised of plastic that will not biodegrade and will end up in landfills throughout the world and remain there for hundreds of years after you have put them in your bin. A staggering two-thirds of plastic will potentially end up this way.
Quite frequently, plastic is made on a ‘low grade’ basis, so that manufacturers can keep their own costs down. A large and varied amount of polymers (molecules in plastic production) and polystyrene are the culprits in this case. Unless these types of plastics are separated out on collection, tonnes and tonnes of them cannot be recycled and will ultimately end up in landfill – or, what else?
Even more horrific is the recent revelation that these containers are ‘stock piled’ and shipped overseas to countries such as Malaysia, and more recently Poland, on the premise that they will be sorted and recycled. Unfortunately this is not the case, and once again, they are dumped in landfills, or even worse, turned into one large bonfire on a regular basis, creating stinking piles of burnt plastic close to many countryside towns and cities. There appears to be no law in preventing this export and the fate of the plastic.
So what can we do to help? It may seem an insurmountable problem, but even small changes in lifestyle will make a difference. Using sustainable products for food preparation such as stainless steel food pots, metal food containers or even insulated flasks for your water from the tap will cut down on the use of plastic. If you need to use plastic for transporting drinks, make sure the plastic is sustainable, and not single use, to simply be thrown away anywhere.
Consider making your own coleslaw, fruit salads and other items you would normally buy from a supermarket. Even better, take your own insulated food pots to your local farmers market, where frequently items such as cream, yoghurt, coleslaw etc are sold from big tubs and freshly made. It’s worth checking it out – you won’t have endless pots to get rid of!
If you are short of time and really have to swoop into the supermarket and stock up on plastic pots, do check out https://www.recyclenow.com/what-to-do-with/plastic-tubs-trays-1. You can check here whether supermarkets in your area are recycling in a responsible fashion, by separating plastic containers from other waste.
Serious manufacturers and supermarkets such as Sainsburys, Waitrose, Morrisons and others who care about the environment are doing exactly this to help the problem, so take advantage of these ethical suppliers and you CAN make a difference.