Source of photo: Thornton’s Budgens twitter

You may use reusable shopping bags to carry some products, but it is inevitable to encase produce with plastic wraps. Thornton’s Budgens, a supermarket in North London, sought to tell another story by replacing plastic packaging with bio-degradable and more environmentally friendly materials. How did Thornton’s Budgens actually break the seemingly unbreakable association of plastic with fresh food? And how can people working in office reduce plastic usage?

Gone are the days when people carried fresh produce without any sort of plastic container. Modernity leaves us with an apple wrapped in three layers of packaging. Thornton’s Budgens go against the flow by scrapping the plastic packaging of over 1700 products in their store and introducing eco-friendly alternatives, such as paper bags and beechwood nettings.

It was one horrifying experience that Andrew Thornton, the owner of Thornton’s Budgens, had on an Island in the US that inspired him to transform his supermarket plastic-free. His foot was wounded by a crab shell, and got poisoned by the toxin from the seawater tainted by an excessive amount of plastic rubbish in the sea. He was taken to the hospital by a helicopter before his return to the Island where he was told “it was great to see you back with your foot”. It then when Andrew realized the sheer amount and far-reaching damage of plastic ocean waste. Having recognized the issue, Andrew started out his plastic-free ambition in his own supermarket.

It was quite a drastic move for Thornton’s Budgens to get rid of plastic packaging from its products, and even fresh meat is no exception. Plastic wraps and polystyrene containers were replaced by sealers made of corn starch and sugarcane trays. 10 weeks were all the time Thornton’s Budgens needed to change the plastic packaging of nearly 1800 products to non-plastic materials. Although the new packaging are slightly more expensive, they will decompose and decrease the burden shifted to the environment. Andrew hopes that this move will be a starting point for other chain supermarkets to get rid of plastic packaging.

In fact, several European countries are now clamping down on plastic packaging. Supermarkets in Germany has stopped giving or selling plastic shopping bags. Bringing their own bag has become a habit for customers. Penny, a German budget grocery store, had its own reusable shopping bags with which shoppers can get €0.1 discount each time they shop. In the long run, it saves consumers some money and the precious resources of mother nature.

The European Union has set out its objective to cut down on annual usage of plastic shopping bags to under 90 per person by 2020, a figure deemed challenging by some countries. However, it displays the body’s determination to reduce plastic waste. Ireland is the EU member state with the lowest annual plastic bag usage per person, counting at 18 bags.

Hong Kong has a long way to go when it comes to eliminating plastic waste. According to Waste Statistics for 2017, the proportion of plastic bags being sent to the landfills among other forms of plastic waste increased from 2016, with a total of 793 tonnes, up 103 tonnes from 2016 (a 15% increase). Where is Hong Kong heading to in terms of handling plastic waste when our counterparts have made strides in actualizing a plastic-free lifestyle?

In fact, you are way more powerful than you think. We seek to empower you to produce less plastic waste by preparing this checklist, and they are absolutely doable in office and our daily lives.

  1. Ditch plastic straws. Otherwise, get a glass straw or stainless steel straw.
  2. Have reusable utensils ready at the office, so that you can enjoy your take-away meal without dumping plastic cutlery.
  3. Put recycling bins right beside the rubbish bin. Whenever one throws away something, he/she can think twice if anything is recyclable and be spared from the landfill.
  4. Put some reusable shopping bags in your drawer. Whenever you feel like going out getting something, bring them along.
  5. Pack your lunch! It is healthy, economical, and saves a disposable lunchbox.
  6. We understand there are times when you have to buy a plastic bag. Why don’t you make full use of it? If it is clean, use it to carry other stuff or as use it as a rubbish bag.
  7. Whenever you finish bottled drinks, save that bottle. Use your creativity to give it a new life. Grow a plant in there, bringing some greenery and liveliness into your workplace.

Never underestimate your contribution. We can save the world if we all do our bits to use less plastic. After all, the future is in our hands!