Most of us are in the habit of taking our reusable bags with us when we head out to do the weekly shop.
But, as soon as we’ve returned home and begin unpacking, it can seem like most of the shop immediately ends up in the bin.
Unwrapping multipacks feels more like a game of pass the parcel, unwrapping layer after layer before you finally get to the prize inside. About as far from zero waste as you can get.
The true cost of packaging
This generates an estimated 650,000 tonnes in global production emissions per year, the equivalent to emissions from around four million car journeys from Aberdeen to London.
Not only this but the majority of this packaging is single-use plastic and can be difficult to recycle.
Finding packaging-free food during a standard supermarket shop can be extremely challenging as often the multibuys or packaged items tend to be cheaper than loose, individual products.
Packaging is often seen as a way to protect products and the prolong shelf life of food. However, too many products come in packaging which is unnecessary and single-use, creating significant emissions and waste.
Consumer pressure is forcing large retailers to change. Some supermarkets are taking steps to reduce this, like removing plastic film from multi-packs of tins or allowing customers to bring their own containers for delicatessen items.
The average Scottish household buys 130kg of single-use grocery packaging each year, at a cost of almost £250 - or 7% of the average annual grocery bill.
Zero waste shops - the new kid on the block
There is an alternative. A new wave of ‘zero waste shops’ are taking to the high street, designed to reduce single-use packaging and allow customers to buy in bulk and use their own containers for all items.
For some this might conjure up images of hippies and dried lentils, but in reality the choice of produce available is vast. Many shops sell fresh fruit and vegetables as well as flour, sugar, breakfast cereals, dried fruit - but also oils, vinegars, milk, eggs and sauces.
Beyond the edible stuff, zero waste shops are great for cosmetics and household cleaning products (many of these are more beneficial for the environment in a number of ways). Shopping at independent small retailers also contributes to the local economy.
If this seems daunting then all that is needed is a little bit of preparation. Get yourself some tupperware or jars of various sizes, plastic bottles (you can reuse old containers like household cleaners or washing up bottles) and reusable bags.
To get you started here’s a directory of zero waste and refill shops across Scotland. If you spot one that’s missing from our list of stores, get in touch on Facebook to let us know.
Coronavirus (COVID-19) update: Given the current situation, some stores may be temporarily closed, operating limited opening hours or offering a home delivery service. Check with your local store for up to date information.