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‘Plastic-free’ Guildford – Supermarkets Not Doing Enough, Say Shoppers

Published on: 20 Aug, 2019
Updated on: 20 Aug, 2019

Last month Guildford Borough Council passed a motion to reduce single-use plastic within the borough and to support the Plastic Free Guildford campaign.

But as people and local authorities were stirring into action, there is growing frustration about the amount of packaging and plastics still on supermarket shelves. With nearly 50% of packaging either difficult or not able to be recycled, there are calls for more government action to legislate to force suppliers to make changes.

Claire Newton, who started Plastic Free Guildford in November 2018, said: “I’m really pleased that GBC voted to become a plastic-free borough. They are providing us with good support with equipment and in getting schools involved.”

Claire Newton of Plastic Free Guildford.

Claire is looking for 30 companies to be Plastic-free Champions. Partisan Cheese, Canopy Coffee and Noel’s Farm Shop have already joined. She is also organising litter picking on the River Wey on Sunday, September 22.

Claire said: “This will be a Plastic Free Guildford event. Come along and help on the day, families welcome. We will be meeting at 10am outside of the Britannia Pub.”

A spokesperson from GBC said: “We will be speaking to a number of people including local residents to develop our action plan for a plastic-free borough.”

Cllr George Potter (Lib Dem, Burpham), who proposed the motion for a plastic-free borough in July, said he was “a bit disappointed that the council seems to be holding off until the next full council meeting before it announces any progress. Reducing the amount of single-use plastics used isn’t difficult or expensive and it would be great if the council were more willing to shout about the steps it is already taking in order to show the way for our local businesses.”

Others who are doing their bit include the health food shop, Food for Thought, in Haydon Place and Noel’s Farm Shop in Sutton Green who are both running bottle refill schemes. Alja Perrin, Food For Thought manager, said: “We’ve been running it for three months now. It has been a success and interest is definitely growing.”

And in a plastic bottle saving initiative by Experience Guildford, over 20 independents and chains have said that they will give free refills to people to top up their water bottle.

A Which? survey showed that on average 48% of supermarket packaging was difficult to recycle.

The Dragon NEWS spoke to people outside Guildford supermarkets and found continuing frustration at the amount of packaging used. It was felt supermarkets were not doing enough to reduce it.

“We fill our wheelie bin with discarded packaging each week. There is just too much of it. We have little choice, it’s forced upon you,” said shoppers, Irene and Alan Weatherall, outside of Sainsbury’s in Jacobs Well.

Mr and Mrs McEwan said: “Packaging is excessive and supermarkets are not doing enough to reduce it. It is difficult though as some packaging does reduce food waste, so it is complex.”

Packaging in Waitrose and Tesco which states that it is not yet recycled. All the other supermarkets visited had similar non-recyclable packaging.

Asked about their intentions to reduce packaging supermarkets said that they were serious about cutting plastic and had various schemes to change their packaging. Both the Co-op and Waitrose said that they were committed to making 100% of their packaging easily recyclable by 2023.

Waitrose also said that they were trying a pilot concept in Oxford called ‘Waitrose Unpacked’ for frozen food and fruit and veg which could be extended to other shops as well.

Jessie West from Extinction Rebellion Guildford,  pictured at the weekly Thursday evening ER meeting in the Quaker Meeting House. Jessie said that people often do not have an option but to buy packaging that wasn’t needed.

But the supermarket’s current performance does not look positive. A Which? survey showed that supermarkets were creating about 800,000 tonnes of plastic every year and that nearly 50% of items of packaging were difficult to recycle.

Jessie West from Extinction Rebellion, a recently formed national movement using civil disobedience and nonviolent resistance to protest against climate change, said: “We have concerns about the inaction on unnecessary packaging of our foods. Often, people do not have an option but to buy packaging that they don’t need.

“Schemes like Plastic Free Guildford are vitally important both to involve the community in environmental issues and to lower the borough’s carbon footprint by lowering emissions from plastic manufacturing, transport and recycling.”

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Responses to ‘Plastic-free’ Guildford – Supermarkets Not Doing Enough, Say Shoppers

  1. Jeremy Holt Reply

    August 20, 2019 at 4:53 pm

    A suggestion to solve packaging recycling.

    Why not bring in a rule “similar” to electrical goods that the customer can take packaging back to the retailer (on his next shopping trip).

    When Tesco and others are swamped by the multiple packaging of the simplest goods these shops might actually do something about it.

    Recycling of packaging needs to start with the suppliers (probably as specified by the supermarkets). There is little the customer can do to recycle much of the packaging.

    • Denise White Reply

      August 22, 2019 at 7:41 am

      I still feel that by the time it reaches the consumer it should be out of their hands. The manufacturers should do more to help refuse companies easily recycle everything. A lot of people do recycle but will not be able to recycle everything. But if you look at a company like Terracycle, it appears that they can recycle a lot more. Why is this the case for a private company?

  2. Paul Cunningham Reply

    August 22, 2019 at 5:58 pm

    TerraCycle is able to recycle a lot of stuff that would otherwise go to landfill. We have partnered with them at Farnham Road Dental Practice to recycle toothpaste tubes, toothbrushes and the associated packaging. This gets turned into outside furniture and other play equipment and is supported by Colgate, so a local company trying to do its part.

    Any of the material can be dropped off in the box in reception and everything that gets sent off earns money that will be given to a local charity.

  3. Ben Paton Reply

    August 22, 2019 at 8:15 pm

    The fact is that businesses do not bear the full cost of their activities. The most effective way of addressing this is with tax incentives and penalties. Only government can regulate so that all the businesses in an industry have to comply with the same rules and compete on a level playing field.
    The cash costs of recycling are borne by local authority waste systems. The non cash costs in terms of environmental damage and pollution is directly borne by Nature (massive rates of extinction) and only indirectly by citizens.
    Every local authority ought to encourage rate payers to compost their food waste. Compost bins (made from recycled plastic) should be subsidised. They would pay for themselves in a few years.
    If you do compost your food waste you quickly discover how little supermarkets do to make their product environmentally friendly.
    Take an apple. You can throw the core in the compost bin. But many apples have plastic stickers that do not biodegrade. The same applies to many other food products. Take a pineapple. It generates a lot of waste. The head is chopped off and binned. It usually has a plastic tag that is not biodegradeable.
    These are apparently tiny examples of a systemic problem. But even these are not ‘tiny’ if one considers how many millions of apples and pineapples are sold with plastic tags that will persist for hundreds of years. The source of the pollution is the supplier that puts this silly and unnecessary plastic tags on fruit and vegetables. But the supermarkets specify and sell the products.

  4. Jules Cranwell Reply

    August 22, 2019 at 9:43 pm

    I have successfully expunged all single use plastics from my law firm’s supply chain.

    Suppliers are required to comply, or will not be permitted to supply to us.

    My brother’s town of East Aurora in New York state has banned the use of plastic straws and coffee stirrers, and is now working on all single use items.

    Where there is a will, there is a way!

    Given the council has declared a climate emergency, it could take a lead on this, and make it happen.

  5. Jules Cranwell Reply

    August 22, 2019 at 9:57 pm

    Although I admire Jessie and ER, I would take issue with her that “people do not have an option”. They have the option to boycott the supermarkets for certain products, and buy from sources that sell loose products, taking their eco bags, such as the excellent Guildford market, or independent greengrocers.

  6. Sue Warner Reply

    August 23, 2019 at 5:32 pm

    Also, add North Street market in the challenge. They bag everything up in plastic, or if they don’t they put it in a plastic carrier bag. Even if you give them your own shopping bag they put everything in one of theirs first – hence the reason I don’t shop there any more.

    • Jules Cranwell Reply

      August 26, 2019 at 7:05 pm

      I shop at the market, and insist on them tipping all veg directly into my bags for life. It’s up to you.

  7. Georgina Grant Reply

    August 26, 2019 at 12:06 pm

    My particular frustration is with one product, both in respect of waste and packaging – lettuce. I like Little Gem, Cos and Romano, but invariably these are sold packed in twos and in plastic. I only want to purchase one at a time, and don’t need the plastic wrapping.

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