The plastic-free movement is undeniably underway. We’re making real progress in reducing the amount of food and drink we consume that’s wrapped in plastic.
But what if you rely on pre-prepared convenience food due to disability or mobility issues? Or if you’re always pushed for time due to family commitments? What if you can’t drink without using a straw?
Convenience Food – Notorious for Plastic Packaging
We’ve all seen ready meals that come with an infuriating amount of plastic packaging. From layers of plastic film covering the food to non-recyclable black plastic containers. Our supermarket shelves are full of unsustainable, single-use plastics.
It’s awesome that the plastic-free movement is growing. More and more supermarkets are reducing the amount of single-use plastics they use. But the push to make our pre-prepared convenience food, including fresh food and vegetables, more sustainable, may be causing unintended issues for those who need access to such food.
Let’s take a courgette as an example. Many would argue that shops should stop selling pre-spiralised courgette on the grounds that it’s sheathed in plastic. After all, a lone, whole courgette isn’t. But such a solution doesn’t suit everyone. What if you have low mobility and you’re not able to prepare a courgette on your own? Why shouldn’t you be able to enjoy the spiralised veg trend? What do you do if supermarkets take all pre-prepared vegetables away?
Our desire to live with less dependence on plastic is well-intended. But the problem is we often consider ready meals or pre-packaged food the enemy. Yet that’s not the case for those who, due to disability, limited mobility or a busy lifestyle, rely on and need quality, affordable ready meals.
So, rather than demonise all convenience food, is there a way that ready meals can be made more sustainable? The major supermarkets seem to think so.
Supermarket Giants Making a Difference, but With Disappointingly Slow Timeframes
Iceland has announced that plastic packaging will not feature in any of its own brand products by the end of 2023. They’ve already launched two ready meal ranges that have environmentally-friendly, paper-based packaging.
Sainsbury’s, Tesco, Aldi, Lidl and Waitrose have all pledged to reduce plastic packaging.
These are great steps forward. But this UK Plastics Pact aims to end the use of single-use plastics by 2025. So how do we get hold of plastic-free convenience food in the meantime?
Plastic-Free, Convenient Alternatives
There are some simple ways to reduce the amount of plastic we consume. We can carry our own coffee cup and say no to plastic bags at the supermarket. But what alternatives are available to those who need pre-packaged foods?
Aside from Iceland’s plastic-free offering, Co-Op’s own pizzas now have cardboard discs instead of polystyrene. There’s also allplants, a plant-based ready meal delivery service that uses recyclable packaging.
Straws are often crucial for those with certain disabilities or low mobility. But plastic straws wreak havoc on our sea life, killing animals who mistake the plastic for food.
Luckily, there are lots of plastic free straw alternatives that are made of metal, bamboo and paper. Metal straws might be unsuitable for hot drinks, but there are options. For example, Bambaw Straws are made of bamboo and can be found on their website or Amazon.
Brands such as VegWare make compostable food packaging mainly for retail. But individuals can buy non-plastic straws from them online.
Slow, But Steady Progress
Although we’re all becoming more aware of the dangers of single-use plastics, more still needs to be done to create sustainably packaged convenience food. Especially for those who need access to them whilst also being ecologically aware.
But the major supermarkets seem to be slowly catching on. While we’ll have access to more plastic-free goods in years to come, it’s good to know there are some sustainable options available in the meantime.