We were invited to take part in a single-use plastic challenge as part of a paid opportunity with The Midcounties Co-operative 1Change campaign. We were all really interested in taking part and hoped to learn more about how we can change our habits in the future. As the children get older, they are becoming increasingly aware of the environment and our impact on it. We are a large family, with two adults, three children and two cats and the girls have often talked about how much waste we produce and what is done with it, especially after learning about it in school. 

The challenge was really simple and is definitely something everyone should try. All we had to do is collect all the single-use plastic used over a whole week. I felt pretty confident about this going into the challenge. We are really careful to recycle as much as possible and our council provides a large brown bin which is emptied every two weeks with all our recycling in. I felt that while we produce a lot of rubbish it was mainly cardboard and glass. We predicted the bag we used would only be half full at the end of the week.

The challenge started well. Molly was really enthusiastic about being in charge of collecting the single-use plastic. She is nearly twelve and really interested in the environment and often reminds me of how we can make positive changes. After learning about how much waste is produced using plastic straws in school, she has already encouraged me to buy reusable straws. We have some curly ones which are also far more fun. The Midcounties Co-operative is planning to eliminate single-use plastic straws, and cutlery from Co-op Food stores by 2020. 

The first thing we bought during the challenge was some new stationary for school. Most of this was in cardboard packaging. There was just one piece of plastic keeping the pencils in place which we felt was just there to make them look good in the pack and wasn’t really needed. The pencil case didn’t have any waste packaging, only a small cardboard tag. If only all products could be the same.

The first day of the challenge was the day of our big weekly shop and we were all really surprised with how much single-use plastic waste this created straight away. I always try to take reusable carrier bags with me, although I do forget more than I would like. As part of the 1Change campaign, The Midcounties Co-operative has pledged to remove all plastic bags across premium supermarkets by 2020, providing bag for life alternatives.   

The plastic in my shopping came mainly from the fruit and vegetable aisle. I prefer to pick my own fruit if I can and then place it in my reusable bag rather than in a small bag. If you’d asked me at the start of the challenge I’d have told you that most of the fruit I buy comes like that. However, when I thought about it more closely I realised that most of the fruit I choose to buy comes in its own plastic box, often with other wrappings on it as well. There was actually very little fruit that you could pick straight from the shelves. To tackle this issue, The Midcounties Co-operative is planning to replace all single-use plastic produce bags with a more environmentally friendly alternative across premium supermarkets by 2020.

The other main area with plastic was from the meat. We bought several pre-packaged meat products and these all had a lot of plastic wrapping them. The Midcounties Co-operative is planning is to enable customers to bring their own containers for products from its meat and delicatessen counters in all premium supermarkets with this facility by 2020. 

Over the week we were surprised and horrified by how much single-use plastic we wasted. The main thing was plastic bottles. We drink a lot of milk and the bottles from this took up at least half of the overall waste. I’m not really sure what we can do about this as the other options are simply too expensive for us. Also, I have got into a bit of a habit of buying bottled drinks, especially if we are going out for the day and occasionally just as a treat. Seeing all the plastic bottles collected after a week really gave me pause for thought. We all have good quality reusable drinks bottles and I will definitely be using them more from now on. On a similar note, The Midcounties Co-operative is planning to eliminate all single-use cups from in-store coffee areas directly operated, providing a re-usable cup option by 2020.

After a week, we had collected a whole 100l bag of single-use plastic. It was horrendous to see how much there was and to think about how there would be enough to fill an entire room after a whole year. Doing the challenge makes you really see just how much rubbish you are creating. As a family, we are going to look for ways to cut down how much we use in future. We are going to carry reusable bottles for hot and cold drinks. This will also be better for the budget as well! We are going to look for shops where we can buy fresh produce straight from the shelves instead of in lots of plastic packaging.

The overall objectives of the campaign are to mobilise The Midcounties Co-operative members and the next generation to make 1Change to reduce single-use plastics

I am going to add my pledge to The Midcounties Co-operative’s 1Change webpage. You too can pledge what you can do to make 1Change and make a difference in the fight against single-use plastics.

Disclaimer: In paid partnership with The Midcounties Co-operative