Thursday 24 August 2017

'Everything now in plastic and cardboard, the waste is just unbelievable'

Fishmonger Margaret Buckley uses newspaper to wrap her stock on Moore Street, Dublin Photo: Justin Farrelly
Fishmonger Margaret Buckley uses newspaper to wrap her stock on Moore Street, Dublin Photo: Justin Farrelly
Paul Melia

Paul Melia

Margaret Buckley and her sister Imelda's family have sold fish in Dublin city for more than 100 years. None of their fish is packaged. It's wrapped in newspaper, "so the fish can read it before they go to the cooker", she says, before being put in a bag.

No customer wants pre-packaged fish, said Mrs Buckley, because it's not as fresh and just creates waste. "Our fish is so fresh the seagulls come in for it.

Even a modest spend of just €40 on typical items in a leading supermarket produced this mound of plastic and cardboard waste Photo: Justin Farrelly
Even a modest spend of just €40 on typical items in a leading supermarket produced this mound of plastic and cardboard waste Photo: Justin Farrelly

"Everything is packaged now, and when you put out your bin it's full of boxes. Everything's in plastic and cardboard, it's unbelievable, the waste," she said.

Across from her stall on Moore Street, Joan Barrett (70) and her daughter Siobhan Hegarty sell fruit. Little produce, apart from strawberries and other soft fruits, are in packets.

"Customers prefer you to empty the boxes into the bag. It could be because they want to see what they're getting, and they don't want to put the packaging into their bin," Ms Barrett said. "People never complain (at the lack of packaging). They say the quality of stuff is better than in the supermarkets."

It's a very different story in our retail giants. A spend of €40 on a range of foods including scones, fruit, vegetables, cooked meat, tinned goods and salads shows just how much packaging is involved.

Some makes little or no sense. A cauliflower in a bag? Shrink-wrapped broccoli? Even the humble banana and orange require styrofoam and plastic padding. As has been repeatedly noted, if only nature could provide some protective packaging.

Eggs have both plastic and paper packing. A six-pack of yoghurts contains plastic, foil, cardboard and a plastic wrap.

But it's not just food. Ten bottles of water in a plastic pack could easily be replaced with a bottle filled from the tap. A child's comic has a plastic sleeve, two small toys are wrapped in plastic, as is a notebook contained inside.

Almost 795,000 tonnes of packaging was recycled last year. The fact so much is produced should be a cause for concern. The customer pays the ultimate price, in terms of higher bin charges.

The EPA 'Live Green' initiative suggests ways to combat this. Say no to junk mail. Avoid single disposable items like razors and batteries. And support market traders like Ms Buckley and Ms Barrett by buying loose produce.

Irish Independent

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