The UK alone produces more than 170m tonnes of waste every year, much of it food packaging. As small-holders, we have more ownership over this area of our lives than most.

We know that many of our readers have an interest in this area and are motivated by reducing their environmental impact. But this can be very complicated to put into action. Recent reports have made things even more confusing, with research revealing that ‘bags for life’ needed to be used at least 37 times before they would become less environmentally damaging than single use plastic bags. This was when taking into account the environmental cost of the raw materials, manufacturing, transport, and eventual disposal for each individual bag. With paper bags needing to be re-used 43 times and cotton a whopping 7,100 times before they would cost less to the environment than plastic, it can be hard not to feel despondent as the battle to do right by our environment seems to become ever increasingly complex.

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If you run a market stall, consider introducing a ‘bring your own packaging’ approach. cc-by-sa/2.0 - © Roger Kidd - geograph.org.uk/p/1522743

Eliminate packaging

If there’s one thing that can’t be argued with, it’s that eliminating packaging whenever possible will help. Selling your produce at farm shops and food markets you can have a lot more control over cutting down on the amount of packaging involved from farm to fork.

If you run a market stall, consider introducing a ‘bring your own packaging’ approach. Discounts on return of previous packaging, for example egg or food boxes, can be a great way of motivating customers.

Dried goods dispensers are also a great way of cutting down on bag usage. Some farm shops have introduced these and they are also proving popular in zero plastic shops that are popping up in towns and cities across the country.

Delivering mixed veg boxes is also becoming a popular way to distribute food produce and is a great way to skip out on the heavy packaging involved in super markets.

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Glass milk bottles can be re-used up to 50 times, and can be re-cycled indefinitely. image: https://www.maxpixel.net/Drink-Food-Bottle-Wood-Glass-Nature-Milk-3231775

Back to the old ways

One growing trend as a result of the plastics problem is the return of the 19th / 20th Century milk delivery. Milk delivery services are making a comeback in the UK and becoming increasingly widely available. The use of the traditional glass bottles that can be returned the following day is a great way to cut down on plastic packaging usage.

It’s true that making glass is a pretty energy-intensive process, but if a glass bottle is re-used multiple times, it’s carbon footprint goes down dramatically. Glass milk bottles can be re-used up to 50 times, and can be re-cycled indefinitely.

Another option is to sell your milk in glass bottles at local shops. This is becoming increasingly popular, with vendors offering a return on a percentage of the cost of the milk on return of the bottle.

Some UK dairies and even some supermarkets have started installing their own milk dispensing machines. This allows the dairies to supply their customers with the most fresh milk possible while eliminating packaging. A great idea if the majority of your customers are locals.

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Using air tight containers keeps food fresh

Keeping it fresh

Cellophane can take thousands of years to decompose and is the element of plastic packaging that tends to get us the most riled. It often ends up ingested by marine animals and leaches harmful chemicals that eventually spread into groundwater from landfills.

But without it, how do we keep food fresh?

Many people replace it with tin foil thinking that this will be better as it is recyclable. But the making of tin foil has a huge impact on the environment.

Starch-based compostable film replacements are a great option and are becoming increasingly available but as with most environmental advancements are still more pricey than the traditional plastic variety. Bees wax coated cottons and traditional lace covers are other options on the market.

Using air tight containers whenever possible is the easiest and most cost effective way to create the same effect as using cellophane while avoid single use materials.