Plastic free year round - Crop Drop's commitment to removing single-use plastic from our food chain
This month is Plastic Free July, highlighting the need to reduce plastic use in general and specifically single-use plastic. Here at Crop Drop we’re very conscious about our use of plastic and are doing everything we can to minimise it, while reusing and recycling the plastic items we do get. In this post you can learn about plastic use in the food chain and what steps we’re taking to minimise it in ours.
Supermarkets, food chains and the modern diet
UK supermarkets are responsible for tonnes of single use plastic. The amount of single-use plastic packaging used by the UK’s 10 leading supermarkets increased from 886,000 tonnes in 2017 to 903,000 tonnes in 2018, according to a report by the Environmental Investigation Agency and Greenpace. In spite of all the talk about recycling, the same report shows the percentage of supermarket own brand packaging that’s listed as “widely recycled” has gone down from 64.7% in 2017 to 63.8% in 2018. The main culprits seem to be “on the go” products that are often wrapped in excessive plastic. They join takeaway containers as some of the biggest sources of plastic pollution.
For standard fruit and veg, many supermarkets now boast about selling more loose produce, reducing plastic packaging along the way. Unfortunately, there is hidden plastic use along the food chain most people might not be aware of and this is not always dealt with as gracefully as well as it should.
Because our modern diet involves eating fruit and veg that’s out of season, many types of produce need protecting in plastic bags while in transport. The wide use of this plastic liners has made them industry standard. While some farmers and supermarkets are experimenting with removing them from certain produce where it’s not actually needed, these liners are still needed for keeping non-seasonal produce fresh. This is, of course, not usually seen by the customer, as produce that has been transported in a single use plastic bag can be sold as loose produce, giving the impression that it’s more eco-friendly than it actually is.
Crop Drop’s food chain and plastic use
As we buy directly from farmers and choose local farmers whenever possible, our food chain is comparatively short. Fewer food miles reduce the need for protecting produce with plastic some of the time. Prioritising seasonal produce also helps with this.
Most of our produce arrives in tough paper bags, cardboard boxes or wooden crates. Paper bags are collected and recycled every week. Most of our used cardboard boxes are used by no dig gardeners instead of plastic sheeting or donated to volunteers and other interested parties for a variety of other uses. The rest is sent to recycling with other paper products. We return the wooden crates to our farmers when we can and donate them when we can’t, so talk to us if you ever need to get your hands on some sturdy wooden crates!
Some of the produce arrives in plastic crates, which are sent back to the farmers to be used again and used around our site for packing veg bags ready for delivery.
The plastic liners in some of the crates are carefully collected by our veg scheme coordinator, Wendy, cleaned and then returned to the farmers for reuse whenever possible. What’s left is sent to First Mile for closed loop recycling. Here’s our plastic bag recycling bin after a weekly packing session. Imagine if all those bags went in the bin!
Our fruit and veg are then packed into reusable bags for delivery to our drop points. You can see them being modelled by some of our team members above. We use reusable fabric bags that are donated to us by local printing company Bag It Don’t Bin It. They are misprints and rejects that would otherwise go in the bin. Sometimes we also get tote bags from our customers, so please consider us if you ever have too many and want to offload some! You also might recognise the colourful plastic net bags, which are actually produce bags we’re given by some of our farmers. They come full of carrots, beetroot or onions, and are then reused as much as possible to deliver weekly fruit and veg to our customers.
Sometimes there’s no escaping wrapping some produce in plastic bags, as is the case with herbs and some greens like spinach, chard and mixed salad or stir fry leaves. Luckily, you can return them to us for closed loop recycling. Just give them a rinse so that they’re clean, let them dry, then pop them back in the veg bag you’re returning to us. You can also return any punnets to us for recycling.
While we still have a long way to go before we can offer a 100% plastic-free food chain, we're doing our best to reduce, reuse and recycle as much as we can along the way. We hope you will join us in reducing the amount of single-use plastic in your life this July and beyond!