Zero Waste – Is It Really?


One of the things that I am really passionate about is waste – specifically packaging.  For many years I have worked hard to reduce what I bring into the house and while I am nowhere near the nirvana that is ‘Zero Waste’, I generally do a pretty good job.

Today we went shopping for various things.  One thing I bought was some sliced salami.  Whenever I buy deli meat from the supermarket or meat from the butcher I always take my own plastic container and ask them to put the meat directly into the container and to stick the price label onto the lid.  Most of the staff are really good and simply weigh the container before adding the produce.

2012-07-29 02However, sometimes it can be challenging and you have to constantly watch what is happening or otherwise you can be easily blind-sided.  We have had instances where my request was followed and then they wrapped the whole container in miles of cling wrap or put the meat in a plastic bag before putting it in the container – AARGH!!  Today the young girl clearly had no idea how to establish the tare weight of the container so she spread a plastic bag on the scales, placed the salami on it and then tipped it into the container I had provided.  I chose not to say anything as it only causes distress to all concerned.

Also, there was not enough sliced salami in the display so she got more from the coldroom  and sliced it.  The piece she retrieved was wrapped in clingfilm and this was removed, discarded and a new piece re-applied when she had finished slicing it.  The display trays are covered with cling film also.

So, by taking my own container and refusing plastic bags and outer wrapping, can I regard this as zero waste?

Buying dry goods from bulk bins creates the same dilemma because although you buy them loose from the bulk bin they have been decanted from some sort of packaging.  At least it is usually a large quantity such as 25kg of flour or sugar so there there is less packaging per kilo.

I still buy my cheese from both the supermarket or the local factory where I can get 2kg blocks but they are still wrapped in plastic.

2012-07-29 04When I buy fruit and vegetables I always make the choice to buy loose produce that I can put in my own tulle bags that I made even if it is more expensive than the pre-packaged option.  A good alternative is a Farmers’ Market, though you do have to check as some stalls do package things into plastic bags.  It is a matter of being committed and voting with your feet as to where and how you shop.

Yandina Markets photo

The only true zero waste shopping is what I can collect from my own garden – eggs, avocadoes, citrus fruit, spring onions and parsley was the haul for today.

2012-07-29 05Do you try to avoid packaging when you are shopping?  Does this influence where you shop and what you buy?

7 thoughts on “Zero Waste – Is It Really?

  1. Lordy me!!! What a haul from your garden!!! Just watch that you don’t have to buy take away because you can’t get to the benches in your kitchen!!!! Great going!!! Hey – I see on your stove the light weight pan – I have one of them too. Do you like them??? I love mine because I’m bone lazy and it’s non stick AND goes in the dishwasher…..

    • No chance of takeaway here – it is just too far to go. Yes, I love my lightweight pan, although I don’t put it in the dishwasher. It takes about 2 seconds to clean with detergent and one of my soft, knitted dishcloths.

  2. The zero waste idea is fabulous under most conditions and I applaud you for your efforts. However …
    When you try to buy cold meats from the deli you could unintentially be asking the employee to commit a minor crime.
    There are health regulations to consider here. The employee can not guarantee that your container is sufficiently hygienically clean for her to place the cold meat into. She must use a clean and new container. That is the standard. The employee could be prosecuted. The store manager could be prosecuted. The store could lose its accreditation.
    If a different person asked the employee to use a container and that container was contaminated, an illness could result. Death might occur. This has actually happened in the past.
    Please either slice your own meat at home of conform to the industrial health standards.
    I know you mean no harm, but other people are not always so clean.
    This is one occasion when you must consider the public and the deli employee before yourself.

    • Thank you for your comment, however, I believe we live in different jurisdictions.
      I would never force someone to do anything illegal. Everyone I have asked generally conforms with my request to the best of their ability and in my local town these actions are quite regular and often applauded by the staff.

  3. mlm, I think the law needs to change! And at some stage we, consumers, need to take responsibility for our action (so if Fairy gets sick, I’m sure she’d not be running out to sue said grocery store!)

    I ask my butcher to do the same, and they usually oblige! Actually, all my local places are helping me (with regular reminders). Just need to get into the bulk movement, which is harder as they are run by uni students, and have uni student hours, where as I have worker hours…

    • Sarah – taking responsibility for our actions – that seems to be an almost lost art in our modern society. Whatever the reason, most people look for someone to blame. Last year, after the floods, I was appalled to find that everyone was looking for a scapegoat. Can we not just accept that we chose to build our home in a flood-prone area or, heaven forbid – that it is just one of those things that happen?

  4. Fairy, thank you for this post on the issue of packaging as I think it’s an important issue. I do what I can but the one thing that gets me unstuck is what to line my kitchen rubbish bin with. I compost vegetable scraps but there is always other stuff that finds it’s way into the small rubbish bin I keep under the sink and empty daily. (I live in a sub-tropical area so it has to be emptied daily). At this stage I cannot think of anything other than plastic that will do the job. Do you have any suggestions?

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