Pandemic and Packaging


As Plastic-Free July looms on the horizon, perhaps it is time consider one of the little-discussed ‘victims’ of the current COVID-19 pandemic.

For well over 20 years I have worked on reducing the packaging that comes into our home.  I take my own containers to buy dry goods (flour, nuts etc) from bulk bins.  I have been able to take my own bottles to the local Co-op to get them refilled with apple cider vinegar, tamari and olive oil.  The local IGA supermarket and butcher accepted my own containers for meat, fish and deli items including sun-dried tomatoes, olives and feta cheese.

However, everything changed as COVID-19 arrived.  I can still buy dry goods in my own jars as long as they are scrupulously clean and have no remnants of previous contents.  We eat very little meat so I have not been to the butcher since the pandemic began.  Neither the Co-op or IGA are accepting containers to refill at the moment.  Will this change back when things settle down?  Will it become the new normal and the years of action on single-use packaging be unravelled by one virus?  Only time will tell.

These changes have forced me to reconsider my shopping habits.  The item which has been impacted most significantly is olive oil.  I used to take a litre bottle to the Co-op for it to be refilled but now I am obliged to buy a new 750ml glass bottle for $2.95 each time I wish to buy the local, organic olive oil.

This bottle will simply be refilled from the drum of olive oil as required now.  No more bottles.

2020-05-19 01

We use a significant amount of olive oil so my interest was piqued when I saw a sponsored post on Facebook from Nuggety Creek Olives.  After a bit of reading I discovered that I could buy a 20 litre drum of olive oil for $180.00 delivered to my door.  The extra virgin olive oil is produced from olives grown without chemicals and I believe the farm is currently being audited for organic certification.

The Nuggety Creek olive oil arrived safely and is now stored in a cool, dry cupboard.  I even made a drip catcher from an old dip container and a piece of wire salvaged from the shed.

2020-05-19 02

20 litres may sound like a lot of oil but I will be sharing it with at least 3 friends.  Thinking outside the box has allowed me to continue to minimise the packaging that we generate.

Bottles filled and ready for distribution to friends.

2020-05-19 03

I have not bought any of the other items I mentioned as yet but my next project is to look into a bulk source of olives.  While I understand that all foodstuffs must come in some sort of packaging or container, unless you produce it yourself, I am keen to buy in larger quantities, and therefore, minimise the impact.

Have you considered changing your shopping habits since the pandemic began?  Would community bulk-buying be an option for at least some products?

6 thoughts on “Pandemic and Packaging

  1. We haven’t yet (quite!) run out of laundry supplies and liquid dish soap, which we normally buy at the local Environment Centre, dispensing into our own reused bottles from their bulk. All of these are plant-based cleaners, with minimal fragrance added, if any. Unfortunately, that shop is not open, and being a charity, run by volunteers, is unlikely to reopen soon. I have been eking out my supplies, and using eco-balls some of the time. (Years ago, I found that the eco balls didn’t do a very good job on heavily soiled clothes, or even sweaty office shirt collars, but they’re fine for very lightly soiled items.) The same products are available in other shops, but not the refills. 😦
    I think we will probably stick to the same brand/product, but hope to find it in larger quantities, at least until refilling is an option again.

  2. Hello, the little bulk shop near me that I can take and fill my own jars has been closed so I haven’t had another option and it was back to buying from Woolies for me. I have tried to buy with the least packaging but I don’t find it ideal at all! I had also noticed that same olive oil for sale but I don’t think I use enough of it, perhaps I need to try and see who wants to share. Will you have a use for the drum when empty or can it be recycled?You obviously fill your own containers in a normal world, what is your opinion on the packaging that the shop has to discard compared to packaging you might have to discard from the shop. Just about everything comes with some sort of packaging and sometimes I just don’t know what is best.
    Kind Regards Julie

  3. I have recently bought Protein powder on line in bulk. Although packaging is no different from retail sales, the price difference was considerable. I was able to buy 4 units at one time, delivery free, and costing only two thirds the price of supermarket purchases, without having to leave my home.

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