Everyone Should Be Able to Afford Products Free of Plastic Packaging, Not Just the Rich
I remember running out of honey, I usually but it in bulk at Winco, but the bulk options were shut down. I remember waiting a couple of weeks and thinking I could just go with out it, then I saw the sale $11 for 5 lbs ($2.20/lbs) of honey (versus my bulk price $4 for 1 lbs, or rebuying a glass jar which is a little over 1 lbs for $13), seemed like a deal that was too good to pass up. I stood in front of the honey section for a long time, I finally decided to purchase the large plastic jar. I know that buying in bulk is more sustainable than purchasing several smaller bottles, and there would be potential to repurpose the container after using since it is so large, but I was still frustrated that my best option came in plastic.
I realized that all the work I had been putting towards buying bulk food, purchasing reusable containers, and having a clear plan for all my grocery purchases so I could save money, disappeared overnight. I found my self stuck, spending more time in grocery store aisles calculating the cost of an item per ounce, running through scenarios of when is it acceptable to get plastic vs glass jars, just trying to find a way to purchase the items I wanted in sustainable packaging. I finally accepted that I was no longer able to shop the way I did pre-COVID. After the bulk aisles where shut down, I realized the huge difference between bulk and packaged food prices. I could not validate spending 2-5 times more money on sustainably packaged goods, so I ended up purchasing a lot more items with plastic packaging in order to stay closer to my original budget.
Being able to afford items in sustainable packaging is a privilege, especially during a pandemic. Don’t forget low income households have been, and are currently being disproportionately affected by COVID, especially when it comes to the cost of food. An overall grocery price increase of 2.6% for the month of April is huge when 80% of Americans are living paycheck to paycheck.
Everyone deserves access to products that are not packaged in plastic, not just the rich. We have all been caught in this cycle of creating grocery budgets that contain affordable items, but those affordable items come packaged in plastic. There are limited options for consumers to get out of this cycle without having a large amount of additional money. While bulk food is a great option to “vote with your dollar” we still ultimately need companies to change their packaging. We can encourage change through contacting our government representatives to pass HR 5845 Break Free From Plastic Pollution Act of 2020, signing petitions like this one, this one and this one, and messaging the companies we purchase from to change their packaging. Every little bit counts.