In October 2019 we were delighted to receive Champion status for our efforts in reducing single use plastic by Plastic Free Leamington and Warwick.
Last week, Leamington and Warwick were officially awarded ‘Plastic Free Community’ Status – the 100th location in the UK to receive the award!
Our town’s plastic-free campaign was started in January 2018 by Leamington residents Jo Lally and Sarah Kenny-Levick after seeing Penzance become the UK’s first plastic free community, calling on key organisations and businesses to take more responsibility for eradicating single use plastic.
Jo and Sarah say “More than 30 businesses across our community have eradicated at least three items of single-use plastic, in many cases much more, which has taken hundreds of thousands of pieces of waste out of our system that would have otherwise been on our planet forever.”
At Aubrey Allen, we want to do the right thing and we were posed that very question by a packaging consultant last year –
‘is it the right thing you wish to do, or do you want to do what your clients think is right?’
Most definitely the former. Our whole ethos is to eat with integrity and integrity is at the heart of all we do.
We wanted to give you a guide to the small steps we have taken over the last 12 months using the 5 Rs as we navigate our way through the thorny minefield that is plastic reduction in the food industry.
Why not simply stop using plastic altogether and use all these wonderful eco–friendly, plant based, compostable products? If we could, we would do so without hesitation. However, with the fresh products that we sell, it isn’t that easy. Landfill is, well, filled with products marketed as plant based and environmentally friendly but the truth is that they cannot be processed without the industrial composting facilities that are yet to arrive in Britain.
We have conducted extensive research but unfortunately until recycling infrastructure and technology catches up on these issues, there is going to have to be some compromise; the 5 Rs
Here is a summary of what we have implemented so far:
Ready Meal Trays
REPLACE We have now switched from a black plastic tray to a paper board product (the raw material is sourced from PEFC sustainable managed forests) which is 100% recyclable – just rinse it out and put in your paper/board recycling.
RE-USE Or you can ask our shop staff for the ready meal menu a week before hand and we will fill your own containers and oven ready dishes for you to simply collect and cook at home.
REPLACE AND RECYCLE Paper Bags – we now pack the majority of our meat in paper bags, they keep the meat fresh, products can be frozen in them, and they can be recycled.
REPLACE AND RECYCLE Polystyrene Trays – we have moved our prepack meat to aluminium trays which are infinitely recyclable (just rinse off any food residue and put in with your regular recycling).
REVIEW The film coverings are not yet kerbside recyclable – we are currently searching for a more environmentally friendly alternative.
REDUCE AND REVIEW Vacuum Pack Bags – There are currently no kerbside recyclable alternatives so we will continue to use at present. We could stop using them however this would lead to higher levels of waste product which is not commercially viable and our advice received is that the food waste implication would lead to a higher negative impact on the environment than using plastic to preserve the product.
REPLACE AND RECYCLE For our salads and olives we have moved to RPET pots which are made from post-consumer recycled plastic and these are widely recyclable within your general kerbside recycling.
RE-USE They are also easy to clean and therefore able to be reused – bring them with you when you next come in for your salad items.
REVIEW AND REDUCE Upon advice and internal trials we decided not to go with compostable plant based products as they currently go into landfill and can take many years to degrade. They are also difficult to wash and reuse without losing structure making them a single use item.
You could argue that it is not ideal to continue to use plastic as it is an oil based product however it seems to be the best option to us at this time and that reusing the plastic that is currently on the planet would seem a sensible option.
Fruit and Vegetables
REPLACE We have replaced our pre-packaged fruit and vegetables with loose produce that can be taken away in paper bags. These products come fresh from local markets and suppliers.
REPLACE AND RE-USE For smaller, lighter items we are now using paper bags. Larger, heavier joints of meat simply don’t work in paper bags and the compostable paper based ones are very flimsy and the meat would most likely fall out onto the pavement upon customers leaving the shop.
RE-USE Bags for Life are available – we sell them at zero profit margin along with cool bags so please purchase these to use again and again or bring along your own bags and boxes.
REPLACE We ship some meat out by mail order using a lined cardboard box that we have introduced instead of polystyrene – we are talking to our suppliers to encourage similar practices.
REDUCED We have reduced the use of disposable trays back of house and are using lined crates instead, as well as having deliveries in crates instead of boxes that are then returned to the supplier.
REDUCED We have reduced the number of vacuum pack bags by changing our processes and are constantly looking at where unnecessary packaging is being used.
REVIEW As a team we are all committed to working towards minimum packaging.
Help us do the right thing.
Wash out your deli containers and we will refill them.
Bring your own containers and let us dish up your dinner.
We value any help or feedback on what we have done so far. If you have any ideas or suggestions to help us on our sustainable journey, please email me directly firstname.lastname@example.org
For more information on how you can support Plastic Free Leamington and Warwick visit their Facebook page