Plastic-free shopping in supermarkets

Plastic-free shopping in supermarkets

Plastic-free shopping in supermarkets?

If you don`t have a nice Zero Waste Store in your Area, or you are living on a budget, its still possible to shop plastic free. I do plastic free shopping in supermarkets regularly.
It´s all about finding alternatives and leaving all the plastic wrapped fresh produce on the shelf.

Normally most places like coffee shops and grocery stores, bakeries and farmers markets let you take your own bags and containers. 
Just go and order and hand them your container the same second. If you act confident like you always get your stuff in your own container they maybe wont even think about saying no 😉 if they say no, talk to the people and ask why, maybe even try to talk to the manager, if they know that more and more people want to bring their own container they might do changes. If they just don´t want to let you buy plastic free, just go and try a different store, the next one might be pleased to pack stuff in your containers. It might be frustrating sometimes but if you asked once or twice it gets easier and easier.

What I`ve experienced so far is, that they always have something plastic free or unwrapped.

1st rule: get your own reusable bag, a few cloth bags/nets, glasses or container.
2nd rule: leave plastic wrapped fruits and veggies on the shelf. No unwrapped brokkoli today? Dont cry, cook something else 😉
3rd rule: go to farmers markets (you can pack everything in your own bag, and hopefully even buy local products) or bulk stores, where you can use your own container, nets, bags, etc for nuts, flour, pasta and even refill soap, oil, vinegar.
4th rule: choose products in glass jars and bottles (even cans are more likely to get recycled than plastic) rather than plastic.

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At the Bakery:

Mostly they pack bread into paper bags anyway. Only if you let them cut the bread with the machine they will usually put it into a plastic bag. Use the paper bags for your compost or if it is clean collect them if you are going to make sandwiches they come in handy.
In a bakery and also in the baking section in supermarkets (where they have prices per piece) you can always bring your own reusable bag for bread** and other dry stuff. If you like something sweet and sticky, bring your own container (like this stainless steel lunchbox from EcoLunchbox**).
I have never had a situation where somebody didn’t wanted to serve me. They sometimes just say they can’t take your bag behind the counter because of hygienic reasons, but they can always fill your bag if you put it ON the counter.

Fresh Produce:

Bring your own reusable mesh produce bags**. Leave all the wrapped stuff in the store and chose only the unwrapped stuff. Yes, I know, sometimes you really fancy Brokkoli and its wrapped in plastic. But if refusing plastic is your priority? Pick something else. If you find unwrapped Brokkoli, another day maybe in a different store, you gonna be much more happy! It´s always a priority YOU choose. Is it the Brokkoli you really want to have, or is it a change you want to make and be part of the plastic free revolution?

Grains, Oats, Pasta, etc:

This can be a little harder. It depends on the Country you live in and then again the stores. In Europe it´s been no problem at all to find Couscous, Pasta, Oats in paper packaging or cartons. (The pasta cartons come sometimes with a little plastic window though.)
You will find two different kind of cartons, don´t get fooled, some of them have a plastic bag inside. But like here on the pics, you can see which one you should choose.

There will be a bag hidden inside
If you need to push the lid inside there is no bag inside

Oil, Vinegar, Honey, Jam, Tomato Sauce, etc.:

In most shops you will find these products in glass jars too. Easy choice. Also I heard in some Supermarkets (or is it the City?) they said they could only find vinegar in plastic.
Or buy stuff in cans. (They get much better recycled than plastics.)

Dairy and Meat:

Plastic Free dairy and meat products in conventional supermarkets might be a different story. I absolutely think people should avoid anything from mass animal productions. But if you don´t want to avoid it you should at least make better choices.
In some countries you´ll find milk easily in glass bottles. Yoghurt sometimes too. (These are mostly organic products also.)
At the Cheese counter you might be able to get the cheese in the paper only. Theres no need for another plastic bag, just tell the person behind the counter you don´t want that. 
Meat is not easy to get without packaging in a conventional supermarket because of health and hygienic laws. You should definitely ask in your store if it is possible, or absolutely ask for no extra plastic bag. Because I´m vegetarian since 1990, I do have no experience in buying meat plastic free, I just know from Zero Waste friends and blogger that it is actually possible. It always depends on the store and the staff. In organic stores or farmers markets they are absolutely more helpful when it comes to avoid plastic.
One loophole in a supermarket/deli is if they won’t take your container behind the counter because of hygiene regulations, just leave the container on the counter and they can weigh it and put it in your container without taking it behind the counter.

For the bathroom:

  • Buy Toiletpaper (made of recycling paper of course) in a big pack and use the plastic packaging as a garbage bag if you need garbage bags in your bins. Sometimes the big packaging for Hotels and Restaurants have paper packaging, you just need to find them online. There is also a company called “Who Gives A Crab” selling bamboo toilet paper in bulk in paper only to your house. Or invest in a “bum gun”.
  • A lot of supermarkets in Canada and the US have paper wrapped toilet paper in stock. In Mexico the small corner stores sell paper wrapped toilet paper too.
  • Buy Q-tips with paper shafts**.
  • Buy reusable make up remover pads**.
  • Make your own peelings and other cosmetic products. 
  • Buy unwrapped soap bars or in carton or paper wrap.
  • For women: get a menstrual cup** or reusable pads**

Sometimes you just can´t make plastic free choices. The companies doesn´t make it easy for us in some countries, cities, shops.
​But theres mostly a better choice.

If you know a bulk store or Zero Waste Store in your area, go check it out!
Heres a little guide: how to go bulk shopping.

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