Shoppers unwrap plastic packaging at Wilmslow checkout

Shoppers joined in a plastic unwrap in Wilmslow on Saturday, 1st December, buying the products they needed but leaving the wrapping behind, and using paper bags or reusable containers instead.

Plastic Free Wilmslow is trying to get all businesses to cut the number of plastic items and switch to reusable items.

Andrew Backhouse, one of the people taking part, said "Lots of supermarket items are wrapped in plastic which may get recycled, but often goes to landfill, and is bad for the planet. Some supermarkets have made major steps, like leaving more fruit and veg unwrapped, and others are trying other wrapping ideas. Waitrose have started to make more vegetables available loose – but not yet providing paper bags instead of plastic.

"So what can we all do to push for less plastic? By leaving the shops to look after the plastic wrappings that were not needed is one obvious statement – and cheaper for us than giving more work to our council to collect and recycle. Andy buy more vegetables loose or packed in cardboard."

He added "Plastic Free Wilmslow has heard from a lot of people who want to put pressure on those who use unnecessary plastics. It was great to get lots of people taking action themselves this weekend. And staff from Waitrose were very helpful and positive about the action too."

Keith Chapman, Town Councillor and plastics manufacturer, also took part, and said "The industry wants to work with environmental groups like Plastic Free Wilmslow because we share the same objectives. We should reduce the use of plastic to the essential, and eliminate unnecessary outer packaging. This will deliver both a sustainable planet and a successful and valued plastics sector."

Plastic-Free Wilmslow


Here's what readers have had to say so far. Why not add your thoughts below.

Hannelore Hartig
Wednesday 5th December 2018 at 5:00 pm
Sounds good to me. Last time I asked the staff at a supermarket to take the clamshell of some pastries they refused and said they have nowhere to throw the packing at the till, and the bakery would also not do it.
Diane Walker
Wednesday 5th December 2018 at 5:35 pm
Fantastic! I have been tempted to remove the packaging in a supermarket but there's nowhere to leave it other than in the trolley? It looks like this is where these ladies left it so that's what I'll do! The next step is for supermarkets to STOP providing 5p plastic bags! People will not make an effort if they know they can get plastic bags at the till? It may inconvenience some people because they'll have to put their shopping loose in the car, but you can bet your life they'll remember their bags next time! It's far from rocket science...just leave some bags permanently in your boot!!!
Sheba Thompson
Wednesday 5th December 2018 at 6:03 pm
This is a small step in the right direction, but by leaving your plastic at the checkout, you're just giving someone else the responsibility of disposing of it. It will still end up in landfill! Manufacturers and food retailers need to illiminate the plastic altogether.
Ruth McNulty
Wednesday 5th December 2018 at 7:40 pm
Congratulations to Andrew for the organisation and conduct of this event - part of the ongoing programme to work towards 'Plastic Free' status for Wilmslow. As comments already posted indicate, there is a substantial awareness in and among fellow residents that a reduction in single use plastics is important.
As Chair of Plastic Free Wilmslow, I should also like to thank the management of the Waitrose store for hosting this event and for their very positive approach. If it were needed, it is a further demonstration of business awareness of our collective need - and consumer pressure - to encourage a substantial reduction if not total eradication of single use plastics.
Incidentally, Andrew did provide cardboard boxes to house stripped wrappings, so waste was not left in trolleys or baskets during the Unwrapping.
Wilmslow Town Council, who are backing our bid for Plastic Free status, have themselves made significant progress by auditing and replacing single use plastics, where possible. To give two examples, the Clerk now writes notes and minutes with a fountain pen rather than a plastic biro and has also found a source of re-useable cable ties.
The group continues to talk to businesses in and around the town to learn of the opportunities they have found to help promote practical plastic reduction.
Paul Rowlands
Wednesday 5th December 2018 at 10:36 pm
At Tesco Handforth, if you wish to purchase loose fruit and veg, the only small bags that are available are plastic. I'd happily pay a penny more for a paper bag. They are also impossible to open (you may have seen me, angry man blowing forlornly on a plastic bag in the veg aisle). They provide them for mushrooms, so why not everything else (on the rare occasion there's produce on the shelf - sorry, couldn't help having a dig!)
Mark Goldsmith
Wednesday 5th December 2018 at 10:45 pm
Any unnecessary packaging is wrong. However, this is not as simple as all single use plastic = bad and all paper / cardboard = good.

Why? Well because plastic uses far less energy and water to produce than paper/cardboard, is lighter to transport, so uses less fuel and produces less greenhouse gasses as it does not biodegrade. It also helps increase the shelf life of produce, so totally removing it will increase food wastage.

However, it’s main drawbacks is that it does not biodigrade or recycle easily. Although, we have a massive problem in recycling paper and cardboard too, especially since China stopped taking much of our waste.

So plastics main problem is that it does not biodigrade. Some limited progress is happening on making it biodigradeable but it still has a long way to go.

Therefore, it depends on what shade of green you want to be. If biodegradability is everything, then remove all single use plastic. However, if reducing food wastage, greenhouse gases and water usage are important to you, then keep plastic.

Ultimately though, I think a blend of the two will give us the most environmentally friendly solution. But we won’t get this if we only strive for a totally plastic free society.
Pete Taylor
Thursday 6th December 2018 at 9:54 am
This extract from Simon Reeve’s journey round the Mediterranean is absolutely shocking: it shows discarded green-house plastic being washed into the sea and becoming micro- plastic.
These green-houses in Almeria (an almost desert-like area) are where OUR supermarket vegetables now come from.
I believe that the whole episode is available on iplayer, this is just a short extract.
Mark Russell
Thursday 6th December 2018 at 3:02 pm
This is a good idea of passive protesting. If even 25% of all supermarket customers did this, the shops would have to deal with a mountain of plastic = cost. So to reduce their cost, im sure they would finally stop using plastic! Lets be real, these companies only doe things because they are cost effective.
Caroline Mangnall
Saturday 8th December 2018 at 9:06 am
Years ago when I lived in North London I used to shop regularly in Waitrose and in those days they used to provide the large paper bags you see in so many American programmes.
We seem to have gone backwards rather than forwards