Published 19 March 2017 ● Last Updated on 30 September 2020
I have plastic nightmares, I do. The rampant and callous usage of plastic in the world really bothers me. I get appalled when I see people in super markets picking bag after bag for every item they’re picking at the check-out kiosk. I am disturbed when youngsters walk into a coffee shop, take coffee in a plastic cup, and then ask for a plastic bag and straw to go. If one is drinking it, why does one need a ‘take away’ bag is my point!
All this internal turbulence has prompted me to pen down this article today. So it’s for pure selfish reasons that I am sharing ways in which you can reduce the usage of plastic when you go grocery shopping, hopefully the nightmare diminishes, or even entirely goes away!
1. Where you don’t need plastic – You definitely do not need to take plastic bags from the supermarket after you are done shopping. Just invest in a few sturdy reusable and foldable bags which fit snugly in your bag and head out next time.
– Try this t-shirt to bag in 10 mins tutorial. It’s easy, it’s gorgeous and you can keep your fav tees for life whether you fit in them or not !
– A fav of mine is this broken/old umbrella to sling bag DIY idea. I have tried it, trust me the end product is just WOW.
2. Where you don’t need plastic but have to take as it’s a part of the packaging- For those items that come home pre-packaged, do recycle the plastic/ cardboard/ paper (please rinse if needed) packaging properly. If what you buy from the wet market or supermarket comes in a Styrofoam container, do note that Styrofoam cannot be recycled. Put it in the trash bin instead!
a. Ever been shopping to a wet market? Do give it a try if you have not. Most of the veggies and fruits in the wet markets in Singapore are sold by weight or pieces bought, hence they are not pre-packaged. As a buyer, you are expected to use a plastic bag [reusable baskets in some cases] to collect your desired purchase, which is then weighed, charged for and handed over to you. Just start saying no to these plastic bags. Carry home-made bags from light fabric / t-shirts or even pre-used plastic bags to gather you purchase. I was expecting dirty looks when I tried it at my neighbourhood wet market the first time, but there was absolutely no objection from the stall owners. See attached pictures! If they are light weight, there will be no significant addition to the $ value you need to pay anyway! See list of wet markets in Singapore at the end of the article.
b. How about your neighbourhood supermarket? Most of the fruits and veggies in the supermarkets come pre-packed in – sigh- plastic. Not to mention all the other dry groceries and home items one generally buys. Granted there are merits of packaging food- securing the contents, tamper proofing, and increasing shelf life being a few. The good news is that most supermarkets also sell loose veggies and fruits. Just start carrying pre-used plastic bag or even fabric bags (make them yourself) for bagging these too. I tried them to purchase vegetable and fruits in NTUC and Cold Storage store here in Singapore. Guess what, it worked! Some pics as proof. However, I was not entertained when I offered my own containers- clean plastic and glass jars – to purchase meats, freshly herbed olives, sun dried tomatoes and other unpackaged wet appetisers- Reason given: To safeguard food standards. Do share with us if you have tried this elsewhere and succeeded in Singapore!
c. Bulk dry food stores– I discovered these gems in Singapore due to my research for this article. For those of you that have missed this bit entirely- I certainly had – Singapore has a few well stocked dry goods markets. Albert Centre and Lu Fu Shou Complex, Brash Basah, are the ones I have tried shopping with my own bags and boxes. From dried fruits to nuts to fried fish maw, duck web, lup cheong, red dates, dried plums and such- you get everything possible in the dry foods category. The best part was that not a single store sales person flinched at my request for no plastic. All the stores where I took clean boxes, bags and bottles – to get my purchase back in- did not find my request to be unusual! See list of dry goods bulk markets and the NTUC warehouse location at the end of the article (it is not exhaustive).
d. Bulk Olive Oil, Wine, Whiskey: Vom Fass is a wholesale merchant that stocks high quality olive oil, argan oil, vinegar, whiskey, wine and the like by volume. There are two outlets are in Singapore- one in Ion Orchard and the other in Westgate mall. You can carry own bottle or buy their reusable glass bottles to buy your desired item. It’s easy and super fresh.
4. Where food on-the-go comes packed in plastic: Ever bought sushi/ sashimi take away for lunch? These usually come pre-packed in plastic boxes and that is necessary for food hygiene reasons. No, no, I am not asking you to abstain from indulging in delectable Japanese food. But once you are done with your meal, can you please send in the rinsed boxes for recycling? If you love Salads, and once-in-a-while do a take away, just ask the friendly counter staff if you can reuse their cleaned up bowl for the next time. I tried it at Salad Stop and they said a vehement yes to me! Do reuse the gorgeous cookie and candy tin boxes [not exactly plastic] they make these days to keep your stationery, jewellary or even sewing supplies.
– Buy freshly baked bread from the bakery near your home. Take a reusable bag from home to bring it back in.
– For cakes take your own box, for cupcakes add dividers [Make your own dividers] to keep the flavours separate. As a wise lady once said, “when you lick the icing off a cupcake, it becomes a muffin and muffins are healthy”. 🙂
– Go off frozen foods as far as possible/practical- they used a lot of plastic [even though they appear to be using cardboard] and a fair bit of preservatives. Eat fresh.
– Track the various local farmers markets that happen in Singapore, visit them. Take your own bag and eat local.
For the next time you go grocery shopping, just keep this handy list on your phone
1.Take a shopping list [to avoid buying the tempting albeit mostly unnecessary stuff]
2.Take shopping bags – big and small
3.Take your own water [in case you feel faint while shopping- definitely do not buy bottled water]
4. Carry a reusable coffee mug [in case the grocery bill [particularly in Singapore] gives you a headache]
NTUC warehouse @ 1 Joo Koon Circle, Levels 2 & 3, Singapore 629117 (next to Joo Koon MRT station) | Tel: +65 6552 2722
Opening hours: 10:00 am – 9:00 pm (Mon-Fri) | 9:00 am – 9:30 pm (Sat & Sun)
List of Bulk dry food stores
Albert Centre @270 Queen Street Singapore 180270
Victoria Wholesale market @ 101 Kallang avenue