Plastics: Talk to your Butcher

Plastics: Talk to your butcher - Episode 172 of The Slow Home Podcast

Last week we introduced a new four-part Monday series dealing with plastics. Specifically, how to use less of them in day to day life. We covered the Big 4 – straws, drink bottles, takeaway coffee cups and plastic shopping bags – and offered a whole heap of solutions to help you live a Plastic Free July (and August, and September and so on…) 

This week we’re encouraging you to get a little awkward.

When we first started to make a concerted effort to reduce our plastic use it became clear quite quickly that it wasn’t going to simply happen. Providers weren’t going to read our minds, they weren’t going to offer plastic-free alternatives without any prompting, and they certainly weren’t going to know we wanted alternatives a all unless we were brave enough to have a conversation with them. It was clear we’d need to put some effort in, deal with a little inconvenience, and (most startlingly for me) have some awkward conversations.

Today Ben talks about our butcher. He’s a lovely guy with a busy shop in our village, and when Ben first walked in to the store holding a handful of Pyrex containers and asked him to put the sausages, lamb and chicken thigh in them rather than wrapped in two different layers of plastic, the butcher was bemused. Probably even amused.

He was happy enough to try it though, and after two or three more visits Ben had developed a reputation for being the ‘bring your own containers’ guy. Which is funny. What’s more, the butcher was excited to tell Ben a few weeks ago that there were more and more people starting to bring their own containers in to the shop, and he was happy to be using less plastic.

What we’ve learnt from just that one interaction is that in order to see change, we need to be willing to first make change. And sometimes that means being the weird one, having the awkward conversation, bringing your own bag to the bakery, explaining that you’re doing an experiment – whatever needs doing to gently start the movement.

We’ve since spoken to our local deli, our bakehouse, the Thai takeaway and coffee shops, the grocery store, the farmers market and sushi shop. Rarely has it been an issue to bring our own containers, and even more surprisingly, everyone I’ve spoken to has been behind the idea of less plastic.

Of course, there are always going to be exceptions (and I’m thinking of a takeaway salad shop I’ve stopped going to because of their stance on BYO containers) and our advice in this instance: find another provider for a while. As consumers, we do have a say in what is OK or not OK, and providers will pay attention eventually.

This week we’d love to encourage you to have one conversation with one of your regular providers – be it your butcher, veggie stall, fishmonger or cafe – and ask them whether you can use your own containers at their shop. If you feel nervous or awkward about it, tell them you’re doing an experiment (in my experience people are much more open to that idea than anything else I’ve tried) and see if that helps.

Let us know how you go!


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6 Responses to Plastics: Talk to your Butcher

  1. Great podcast … loved listening and even had a little giggle about our local butcher
    I have started takening my glass containers in and although I felt a little awkward to start with I felt even better about my reduced plastic usage and it’s nice to know more people in our local community are starting to think about the massive problem plastic creates and are taking action to make a change
    I am looking forward to the plastic free challenge !!

  2. Plastic bags (the light, most common ones) have been forbidden in France since the beginning of 2017 (I think!) – and you now find a lot more paper bags and bags made from potato starch (that are biodegradable) on farmers’ markets; and in supermarkets they have paper bags + large sturdy grocery bags that you can exchange for free at the cashiers when they are worn out – but there still is a lot of plastic, everywhere you look.
    I usually bring my large empty jam jars when I get olives, nuts in bulk stores. It remains an issue for rice cakes, coffee grind… I buy the largest packages possible, so as not to multiply the plastic wrappings, but still not completely satisfied..

  3. This was great listening! I tried to take my own containers to the butcher the other week. Had them prelabelled (& dated) with what I needed….I felt super prepared, but not for the look I got from the butcher! He looked at me like I’d asked him for his own kidney! Should have come out with the experiment line!! In the end he used just as many plastic bags to weigh the various meats and then tipped them from the bags into my containers. Even my 8 yo son commented that “He really didn’t understand that you wanted no plastic Mummy”. It wasn’t our usual butcher, and so I will persevere with our trip to the Adelaide Central Market this weekend and see how our ‘experiment’ is taken by our usual providers. I will next be looking at the BYO containers for dry loose goods. Loving using our reusable produce bags.

  4. Love the line “I’m doing an experiment”. I’ll be using this one.

    In our cafe we have a large number of clients bringing reusable cups. Even the bank and chemist staff a few doors down bring a box of mugs to fill with their cuppas. we always warm all the cups first to keep their drinks hotter longer, something that other places have neglected to do when I’ve been out.

    I asked a cafe in an airport once to fill my thermos with boiling water, I offered to pay and they were still baffled. The eventually did it and didn’t charge me but it was such an effort for them to get their head around.

  5. Hi Brooke,
    I absolutely love your podcast thank you!!
    I actually tried to do this a while ago at my local Foodworks (before your episode) as I am really trying hard this year to transform our home for the better in terms of less plastic and sustainability etc. When I asked them at the deli section the staff told me that they were not allowed to give me any of the deli produce in a reusable container for “hygiene reasons”. I accepted this at the time but was quite disappointed. I really like this particular supermarket and they are usually quite accommodating. So I’m thinking about asking to speak with the Manager to see if I can find out the truth and/or get the ball rolling to help to implement this and change their minds! Cheers Natasha

  6. Hi Brooke
    I normally buy my fruit and veg from the local Sunday market but missed it last week so popped to the supermarket for ‘convenience’ and was gobsmacked at the amount of plastic I HAD to bring home just to buy fresh produce.
    We regularly use canvas shoppers and so I love your idea of reusable produce bags. I have actually made a couple from old t-shirts I was going to throw out! My husband thinks I’ve gone crazy but it’s ok ha!
    Love your podcasts. Thanks for the tips and enthusiasm. P