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Plastic Free Commitment Blog Series: Cut Out Plastic Packaging!

November 17, 2015
By: Doorae Shin, KHF Waste Reduction Coordinator

The Plastic Free Hawai‘i Commitment Card is made up of 10 independent and important commitments that can help reduce your plastic footprint. Number 4 on that list is “Cut Out Plastic Packaging.” If you want to reduce the amount of plastic you leave the store with, buy fewer items packaged in plastic. There is one main way to do this: buying in bulk!

Why buy in bulk?
Buying in bulk not only saves you money, it also prevents lots of plastic from coming home with you! Lucky for us, all the health food stores on the islands (Down to Earth, Kokua Market, Whole Foods, etc.) as well as some conventional grocery stores offer a variety of items in bulk.

Where can I find bulk items and what can I buy in bulk?
There is typically one or two bulk section(s) for a given store. Kokua Market, for example, has an entire aisle dedicated to bulk goods that are dry food items like granola, rice, flours, chocolate chips, and dried fruit. There is another section for people to refill bottles of Dr. Bronner’s, an organic, multi-purpose soap. You can also find an area for liquid bulk items such as olive oil and soy sauce. If you find yourself in a conventional grocery story, you may see a smaller bulk section. Safeway, for example, has an area that sells trail mix and dried banana chips in bulk.

If you are buying at places like Costco and Sam’s Club, it’s a great idea to buy bulk items that put more in one container which saves you from using extra packaging that is inevitable when buying in smaller quantities. Be sure, however, to avoid items at bulk stores that contain individual single-serve packaged goods, as this contributes more to unnecessary packaging waste!

You’ll find that nearly all of your food and home essentials are always cheaper when bought in bulk, so you can save money and reduce the waste you use when you buy food and home products!

How do I buy in bulk?
All bulk sections will offer single-use plastic baggies and twist ties, but for the purposes of going zero-waste, remember to bring your own reusable bags and containers from home. You can bring reusable bags or your own containers or jars, whether they be plastic, glass, or metal. Make sure you weigh your containers before filling them! The cashiers can weigh them for you and put a sticker with the tare weight on each one so when you check out, they can subtract that weight for you. Every bulk product has its own unique “PLU” (PLU stands for Price Look-up) number that you can write down on the container, the sticker or the twist tie you are using.

Getting Started
If you are new to the idea of buying in bulk, start with one or two products you tend to buy quite often. For example, if you tend to buy lots of rice, consider bringing your own large bag or jar into the store next time. Starting with one product at a time will get you more comfortable with the habit of bringing your own container as well as the process of weighing your containers.

Living in Alignment
When I first discovered how damaging plastic has become on our oceans and marine life, I started looking at the world differently. When you learn something so shocking, it shakes you up and can make you re-consider the way you live your daily life. Something as common as grocery shopping can mean a whole lot of single-use plastics that are often hard to reuse or recycle. Buying in bulk and bringing reusable containers for leftovers or takeout can significantly reduce the amount of plastic you choose to use in your day-to-day life.

There are times when you may feel overwhelmed with all the problems to tackle today. When it comes to the human addiction to plastic, however, there are so many solutions! It feels amazing to make easy changes like cutting out plastic packaging by buying in bulk. When you choose to be part of those solutions and opt-out from contributing to the problem, you can live in alignment with your values and know that your actions reflected your vision for a Plastic Free Hawaiʻi!

Have questions or want some help? Contact [email protected]!