We produce over 300 million tons (approx 300 billion kilograms) of plastic every year. 50% of the plastic produced is for single use purposes e.g. food packaging, plastic straws, plastic cutlery, plastic bags, plastic water bottles. When you place the world’s plastic problem into substantial statistics like that, it certainly makes me feel small and insignificant in comparison to the issue. It can feel like your decision to cut out plastic is ineffective or hopeless, but imagine if 100 people cut it out, or 1000 or even 1 million?
Consumer demand impacts supply chains, so if we start to demand less plastic, companies may even start to adjust systems. For example in May 2020, Asda have plans to open a ‘sustainability store’ in Middleton, Leeds. This is following the opening of 4 ‘unpacked’ trial refill Waitrose stores in Abingdon, Wallingford, Cheltenham and Oxford Botley Road. Brands are responding to consumer demand for less-plastic in food shopping!
Although it’s good to encourage bigger brands to change their packaging materials, it’s important to support local stores already selling plastic free. Shopping plastic-free in Leeds is more available than you think:
Green Action Food Co-op, Leeds University Union
Located in the LUU Union Square, the Green Action Food Co-op is perhaps the most accessible plastic-free shop for students. The shop is non-profit, meaning that the prices are bank account friendly. Bring your own containers (boxes, glass jars, cotton bags) to fill up with dry goods, washing up liquid, and they even sell vegan cakes on Fridays. I always come here to buy my pasta (being a student I get through pasta very quickly) to avoid the single use plastic from supermarket pasta, which is not recyclable.
The Jar Tree, Kirkgate Market
Similar to the Green Action Food Co-op, The Jar Tree stocks similar refill products but with a wider selection. Alongside dry goods, they stock a variation of refill shampoo, body wash and conditioners – simply bring your empty bottle and fill up. What I love about this is that you can bring a small container and try out the different shampoos, before committing to filling a larger bottle of your favourite. The Jar Tree is specifically great for plastic free bathroom swaps such as bamboo toothbrushes, toothpaste tablets, safety razors, reusable pads, menstrual cups and soap bars. Another option for a refill store in Leeds is ecoTopia in the Central Arcade.
More generally, the market is great for fresh vegetable produce – just bring your own bags instead of taking their plastic bags. The market is full of bakeries, butchers, florists, tailors (for fixing that broken zip you’ve been meaning to deal with!). Just remember to bring your own bags, as many business owners give you plastic bags.
Out of This World, New Market Street
This organic, ethical supermarket is located just next to the Corn Exchange. Although many of the products are not plastic free, they sell a wide selection of vegan, gluten-free and fairtrade products.
Morrisons / Aldi
Despite the fact that Morrisons (and Aldi) is largely a plastic swamp, they have quite a good selection of loose fruit and vegetables sold by the weight. This is great if you already buy your weekly shop in the supermarket. Next time, consider buying your vegetables without packaging and only buying the amount you need. Use your own bag or don’t use a bag at all! Not only will this reduce the amount of plastic you buy, but you will reduce food waste by only buying as you need.
The Headingley Greengrocer, North Lane
If you are living in Headingley, this greengrocers is much easier to get to than Kirkgate market. Located down the road from the Headingley Taps, this is another great place to buy your fruit and vegetables without plastic, while also supporting a local business.
Leeds Repair Cafe, Old Bridge Street Church, 1st Sat of Month, 12-4pm
Can’t afford a tailor but still want to fix your clothes? Go to the Leeds Repair Cafe! Simply bring your clothes with holes in and learn to sew and fix them yourself instead of buying a new item to replace it.
Leeds Community Clothes Exchange
Next time you are craving a switch up in your wardrobe, consider going to the Leeds Community Clothes Exchange in Woodhouse Community Centre. Bring your unwanted clothes in exchange for credits to swap for new clothes! Entry is only £3 and you can bring up to 20 items of clothing. Each item you bring is worth 1 credit, which can be swapped with another item. Didn’t find anything you liked? Your swapping credits are saved and will roll over to the next event. Their next events will take place on: Saturday 21st March, Saturday 18th April and Saturday 16th May.
Image Credit: The Jar Tree