Yesterday I attended the Norfolk Waste Partnership conference at the John Innes Centre in Norwich. One of the keynote speakers was the head of corporate social responsibility and environmental sustainability for a major UK supermarket (but not that one). His company is considered to be a market leader in terms of cutting energy use, CO2 emissions and waste. For example, they aim to send absolutely no waste to landfill by 2010. That's all very well and good, but what about all the waste sent home with the consumer? Countless loopholes in government legislation, along with the business case for extending shelf lives, mean that our baby carrots and sweet potatoes are still to be found incarcerated in layers of unrecyclable plastic. It is therefore up to the consumer to let the supermarkets know how we feel about all that rubbish. Here's some simple things we can all do:
- If it's over-packaged, don't buy it! Suppliers will soon get the message from their sales figures.
- Take a leaf out of Alex Bone's book and just rip all the packaging off at the checkout! If it's still in the store, it's the store's responsibility. This appraoch has even been suggested by Ben Bradshaw MP, former Environment Minister.
- Lodge a complaint with the store, or phone Consumer Direct on 08454 040 506 who will pass your complaint on to a trading standards officer.
- My advice - VOTE WITH YOUR FEET! Wherever possible, try and buy your food (especially things like bread and fresh produce) from local retailers. It may be a little more expensive but you're almost guaranteed better quality, and you can rest assured that you're supporting local businesses and food networks. Why not start by just going to independent shops or a local market occasionally, and you'll soon notice the difference between a fresh local beef cut and a shrink wrapped steak from the other side of the world, for example. Don't forget to take along a few plastic boxes and a reusable shopping bag to bring your purchases home in.
Tomorrow morning, after a well-earned lie-in, I'll be off to the shops with a list of meals for the week in one hand, novelty jute bag in the other. I'll see you in the butcher's queue...