One of Greenpeace’s initiatives that Ruchi Dhir recently got involved with is their push to lobby big business to reduce/remove plastic packaging from their products. Most recently they sent out a petition that Ruchi was involved in signing and promoting a plastic free supermarket.

What struck Ruchi was that Greenpeace were able to lobby a major retailer to the point where they could abandon using plastic in their own packaging completely  : Iceland , the supermarket chain which has committed to this , is no small retailer .

Ruchi Dhir has extensive experience in researching and completing waste and packaging analyses for her main multiple retail clients and the volume and figures of the packaging ratio to the actual product can be surprising. She also runs many various fundraisers to help better the environment and causes like this one.

Greenpeace’s research on this area is staggering :plastic , though durable and sterile  , poses a great threat to wildlife and pollute the environment  . Ruchi Dhir had witnessed some of the effects first hand when she did her PADI training in Cairns , Australia . Whilst diving centres provide thorough and detailed technical training for divers , they also provide an education in respect for the oceans and marine life : plastic pollution being one of the issues .

Many diving centres are involved in ocean clear ups where divers literally pick up plastic litter in order to try and protect marine life where possible .

According to a Greenpeace report , of the 260 million tons of plastic the world produces each year, about 10 percent ends up in the Ocean . They go on to say plastic items are bad for wildlife. Plastic bags can choke or poison fish, animals and birds, with marine wildlife particularly vulnerable. As a study cited by the Government explains, “when seabirds, sea mammals or fish ingest plastic particles, blocking of the gut is likely to harm or even kill the organism”

We have become accustomed to using plastic as packaging for most of our daily use items because as the society of the plastics industry cites  it is ‘light, easily shaped, strong, and inexpensive. Its ability to guard against contamination makes it useful in sterile medical environments such as hospitals .’ It is , without doubt , a revolutionary product which completely altered the way people receive their goods and food . However the war on plastic is one that is gathering momentum  . The material is not biodegradable or sustainable and the problems is causes for wildlife , especially marine life is devastating .

Simple replacements for plastic packaging and products are starting to appear : a simple example being  drinking straws in bars and restaurants which are now paper . It is reported that due to their small size, straws are often mistaken for food by animals and because of their cylindrical shape,straws can cause suffocation and death to the animal. In at least one instance, the stomach of a penguin was perforated by a plastic straw.

Along the British coastline there are also numerous beach clear up initiatives , the closest being in Scarborough  . The Scarborough News campaigned in 2018 to stop marine littering and cut down the use of plastics . Surfers against sewage is a charity which organises coastal clear ups throughout the country and the overriding message as it is with Greenpeace is that it isn’t too late  .

As Iceland have shown  , if a major retailer can remove plastic packaging from their own brand range completely , then the question does arise as to how necessary it actually is and how easily it can be replaced  .

Not only as a threat to wildlife  , many advocates  and bloggers of healthy eating , online and offline : Gillian McKeith  , Vegan Richa , Rosiegetsfit , SoniaJhas , Doctors Kitchen and Lean in 15  , not only give instruction on healthy ingredients and preparation of food , but also the healthiest ways to select and purchase food .

There is resounding agreement and a message that prepacked food  , especially that in plastic  , is lower in natural nutrients . Prepacked and vacuum packed food tends to be imported which means that it has been picked  , sterilised and packaged several hours / days before it is consumed . In this time the nutritional content has already begun to fall . This falls further in the methods of cooking , in short , the more a food is cooked , the more nutirients are lost . Mckeith , in her seminal book ‘you are what you eat’ advocates the eating of fruit and vegetables in as raw a state as possible  .

She goes further , as do many online  / popular nutritionists to encourage the purchase of local produce , again grown as locally as possible but , more relevantly – with as little extra packaging before consumption as possible .

This emphasis is more on the nutritional value of the food to the consumer as opposed to just the environmental effects of plastic pollution .

The more local produce is grown  / picked and packed before consumption and the more it is consumed in a raw state , the more nutritional value it holds .

This has led in part to the popularity of  a new generation purchasing from allotments and local produce stores . In Chapel Allerton in Leeds , former journalist Richard White first began selling fresh produce from a stall in Chapel Allerton in 2012, and opened his shop two years later. The Fruit Stall has become a firm favorite in Chapel Allerton , holding its own against ALDI , LIDL and TESCOS who are located within a few minutes of the shop . The shop has gone from strength to strength , using minimal packaging if at all , with many of the vegetable coming straight from the delivery van and into baskets and brown paper bags . Plastic is almost non existent .

Kirkgate market also remains busy , especially its fruit and vegetable stalls as people enjoy cheaper and healthier versions of the prepacked plastic packed fruit and vegetables often imported from great distances to local supermarkets  .

Allotments around Leeds total over 100  and fruit and vegetables can be purchased from many . All without packaging .

This awareness of the quantity and extent to which packaging is used for food is something that is being brought more and more into the publics attention as many campaigners believe we still have time to reverse the effects and have been correct in their assumption that with a little education  people do question how necessary extensive packaging actually is : it doesn’t contribute to the nutritional value of the food and businesses , big and small are understanding that excessive plastic packaging does not contribute necessarily to an increase in sales or customer satisfaction . There isn’t any other way that a major retailer could be convinced of a complete removal of plastic packaging from their own brand line of products  : it would not only have to be ethical  and sustainable but also not impact negatively on sales  .

Ruchi Dhir had frequently helped clients  , amongst them many multiple retailers  , with their packaging and waste analysis as part of her service as a supplier to assist clients in their reduction by reassessing how her own products were too packaging heavy  , but the drive for less packaging in food products focuses as much as the extensive environmental and wildlife damage  as much the nutritional value  . The current trends and popular narrative on and offline also support this message widely which has meant that consumers are becoming more educated on the effects of plastic packaging so sales for major retailers are not suffering .

This in itself shows signs that big business is changing its trajectory to become more environmentally conscious.

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