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Going less plastic at the grocery store (not bags)

I'm a single person and I've been noticing how much plastic I put out every two weeks with the recycling...even minus the returnables, and the stuff that is not recyclable around here. As a result, I've really tried to make myself more aware of the choices I make at the grocery store when it comes to plastic, even though the weight of my groceries increases as a result.

For me, the choice of glass or aluminum in drink containers is an easier one, as I think it just tastes better. Some products there seems to be not a lot of choice (yogurt comes to mind). Some products I don't even understand why there's plastic anywhere near them.

I also want to educate myself a bit more about this, and the impact of glass/metal versus plastic containers, so I'm looking for both products and general thoughts on this.

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  1. Interesting timing, since just yesterday I was reflecting upon this as well. The one that is sticking in my craw lately are the plastic containers that much lettuce and other greens are now coming in. I don't want to buy them, but unfortunately, the bags often seem to be mistreated by the shippers and shelvers, and too often the lettuce, spinach, etc is already partly crushed by the time I even get to see it on the shelf (and thus rot sets in that much sooner). I can just buy romaine heads, or other types of heads of lettuce/greens, but the selection is definitely inferior in terms of diversity.

    Like you, I've wondered if these containers are as bad as they seem to me.

    2 Replies
    1. re: Cachetes

      I was at the grocery store this evening actually, and even the whole heads of romaine etc were in ziploc-type bags or at the very least in a plastic bag. I do not have a farmer's market anywhere near me, so I understand that this is less of an issue for people who can walk to markets and buy their produce that way (and am a bit jealous)

      1. re: Cachetes

        In my experience, many of the the plastic containers that house greens are actually made from corn. Still not great, but better than a petroleum product.

        ETA: I mean the hard shell containers, not the zip bags.

      2. we 'old' people remember when produce was never plastic wrapped even at the supermarket. Why does lettuce have to be wrapped? Cucumber? Celery? They still were packed, shipped and displayed.

        5 Replies
        1. re: smartie

          a product, I guess, of the extra amount of travel the food gets now.

          1. re: smartie

            Here in NoCal iceberg lettuce is wrapped, but mostly not the others (trying to picture it). Cukes never. Celery, sometimes yes, sometimes no. I'm old too :)

            1. re: c oliver

              check english cukes, they are the ones I see in plastic - also persian cukes ususlly com in a 6-pack in a plastic container

              1. re: enbell

                I loathe cukes so probably don't pay as much attention as I might :)

                1. re: enbell

                  English cucumbers are not waxed, so the plastic keeps them from drying out and going limp.

            2. Well, i'm a big fan of our Wegmans olive/antipasti bar, and of course, you have to put the food in those small plastic containers. Which I've been saving. I have a ton now, but manage to forget bringing them along each time I go back.... I try to at least reuse them for storing left-overs, but I'd love it if I could just bring them to the store and have the fish dude put the scallops in what I brought. Not another new container....

              Another pet peeve of mine - while one can now get their spring greens loosely (you still have to put them in a plastic bag), the m√Ęche is in a huge plastic rectangle that not only screams of eco-crime, but will also fill your garbage bag up like crazy. It is by far one of my favorite lettuces, but I refuse to buy it anymore.

              Why it cannot be sold in (uh-oh) plastic _bags_ at least is beyond me.

              Long story short: I hear your pain.

              1 Reply
              1. re: linguafood

                I bring my own ziplocks to use instead of the flimsy supermarket plastic bags. I wash and re-use the ziplocks.

              2. I have often been termed "The Recycling Police" (or worse) by friends and family, so it warms my heart to hear people think about such things. At least you are recycling all the plastic you can. That is a huge step, and more than a lot of people do (especially those poor souls that don't have recycling in their area like my mom. She is 60 miles away from the nearest recycling facility!). Plastic bags are bad too, but our local grocery store will accept them for recycling, so I wash them out, dry them and haul them back to the store. You're right - what's scary is the stuff you can't recycle, even when you participate in a recycling program. I try to avoid that stuff, too, but some of it is unavoidable (unless I give up cream for my coffee - yuck. Why do they have to add a plastic spout, when I could just open the container???). I too feel your pain.

                1 Reply
                1. re: txgrl99

                  I applaud your recycling and deem us the King and Queen of it. BUT. We need to have choices that don't require recycling. Or make those choices ourselves. So many times I reach for the plastic bag to put russet potatoes or peppers or whatever in. Since I live in a magic house (thanks always, Sam) I'm not concerned about food safety. I am concerned about our planet.

                2. Weird thing I have also noted are products that tout themselves as organic, all-natural etc etc... and yet...you guessed it....chock-full of plastic (this is not exclusive to food-products however).

                  Ditched my regular peanut butter yesterday (Kraft natural) for a plastic-less version, that also turned out to be locally made. :)