What we are doing as the Farmers Market managers?
Compared to supermarkets, most
products at farmers markets are sold loose.
Bread and cakes, some meat, fish, flowers, plants, most vegetables and fruit,
cheese, eggs, pies and much more. Look around your market and you will see. We always encourage new businesses to sell products unwrapped.
encourage you to bring your own bags and containers to market and to
refuse any bags that you may not want. Refuse napkins and cutlery and bring
your own. Bring your own washable containers for meat and fish. Bring your own coffee cup. We are including a stronger 'bring your own bag' message in all our communications.
banned plastic straws like other London businesses and are banning plastic
cutlery and encouraging hot drinks to be sold in reusable and washable mugs
business to ensure that all take away food is sold in compostable,
biodegradable packaging (not plastic).
frequently communicate with all market businesses urging them to reduce and
review their plastic packaging, offering alternative suggestions.
recommend stalls charge for single use plastic bags
invite composting and recycling groups to markets to help customers learn how
to manage their waste more responsibly
What can you do as a Farmers Market Customer?
your own bags and containers- Especially for things like fish and meat if you
do not want to use new plastic. Bring your own coffee cups.
your favourite stalls to charge for plastic bags.
and producers to use recycled plastic instead of virgin plastic, if they can
find it being made for their purposes
farmers and producers to add recycling information on the containers /
wrappings they use if it’s not obvious whether it can be recycled or not.
stalls that do use less plastic and post about it on the markets Facebook page
are doing the above, ask your friends and neighbours to do the same
your children interested in what you are doing and explain to them why.
What are the farmers and food producers doing about plastic and
We work with over 200 different
businesses at our farmers markets. For us to list everything would take some
time. For us to try to impose our views on them would be like acting as a
supermarket does and not giving their suppliers any room to make their own
decisions. All of the businesses at our farmers markets are thinking about the plastic
and packaging issue and making the changes that they can. You as customers
can encourage them and help them to do more.
Many stalls have made changes and more
will be coming, for example soft fruit sold in cardboard rather than plastic.
Reduce. Reuse. Recycle
We believe that the best solution for concerned customers is
to reuse bags given at market as much as possible and then recycle them
responsibly. We all have just as much responsibility as the manufacturers in
recycling our own waste. Lobbying should go into improving recycling in
the UK and development products from waste plastic that store the carbon in an
inert form for a long time.
Plastic is part of the modern world but it has been disposed of
irresponsibly by the whole of society. With awareness its use can be reduced
and its disposal can be managed without damaging the environment. We all need
to do our bit and not blame each other, by shopping at farmers markets you are
buying food products that have been wrapped in less plastic.
Here Is an Organic Salad Growers thoughts:
always balance the environmental impact of the packaging against the impact of
the food waste that would occur if we didn’t use it.
reasons for using plastic are:
1) Preventing food wastage. Loose leaves, even carrots wilt and go soft very
quickly in the market environment, we are not working in the
chilled, humidity controlled area of a supermarket fresh produce
produce starts drying out as soon as we bring the crop to market, at the
market and in customers fridges afterwards. We were dumping trailer loads of
wilted greens every week and we could not send any of the leaves that had gone
out on Saturday on Sunday.
we were working very hard growing and harvesting crops which were
then dumped on the compost heap. This is both psychologically and
financially unviable. Also trying to quantify sales at each market was
impossible and it meant we could not send the correct amount of stock
which meant more wasted food.
2) Food hygiene reasons. Loose leaves and veg handled by other customers
spreads disease. Particularly for uncooked salad leaves and during the flu
season. We had complaints from customers who said they would only
buy pre packed veg. We put out tongs to use but only a
percentage of people used them.
size. When the financial crash happened people became more worried about
budgeting. With loose veg people often packed a bag then found it expensive
especially if they had a few products in their basket. With pre packed products
customers could calculate their purchase as they went along and get 5-6
products for £10 rather than 2 or 3.
Choice. Although I get regular requests for loose veg, when sent as an
experiment it does not sell. We either bag it at the market if we run out of
packs or if we still have packs it gets dumped. Recently we sent loose parsnips
and 4 x 12 bags of 500g. We sold all the bags and only 300g of loose
parsnips all day.
this leads to the key point; since we have bagged our produce our sales at
markets have more than doubled. The smaller Saturday markets we do are only
viable because sales have increased and the unsold produce can be sent out
again on Sundays or to our midweek markets. We know the majority of
our customer buy pre packed bags. We know given the increases in labour
and overhead costs our business is no longer viable with the levels of wastage
we used to have.
care about the customers who complain and I reply to every email to explain,
however it’s almost impossible to rapidly change what we are doing as the
majority of customers like the convenience and value, the freshness and long
fridge life of their produce after purchase.
a lot to deal with at the moment; Brexit has not happened yet but we know we
will lose more staff and horticulture is going to get very hard.
stability at the markets as there are already too many new unknowns and
risks in running a horticultural business.
looking at recycled products. All our carrier bags are made from recycled
plastic. We have asked our supplier about recycled zip seal bags but to get
them clear is almost impossible.
bags are environmentally less good as they cannot be recycled and if put in
landfill degrade anaerobically releasing methane as a greenhouse gas.
Soil Association conference about plastic packaging I went to recently, we were
told even when council green waste is being composted professionally,
compostable bags are being screened out with non-compostable waste as part of
the process and sent to landfill where they produce methane.
very complex issue but recycling is the key to solving the problem.
fully recyclable polythene bags, capable of multi-use are what we consider to
be the best option so far.
FAQ’s and other resources
plastic isn’t really biodegradable. It is normally just conventional
oil-based plastic with an accelerant added to it, which breaks it down into little
pieces and there it stays for a long time.
Meat and fish packaging is often an issue.
Without a shop front, our farmers are travelling to a market with their cuts of
meat and want it to arrive chilled and with no waste. They want you to be able
to buy it without any leakages. Those who cut to order can use butchers paper
but it still needs to go into something to prevent any leakages.
On the fruit and vegetable side, delicate herbs and soft fruits
need to be protected.
All stalls must be compliant with food safety requirements which
can and do differ from each local authority.
What works for cake and apples won’t necessarily be appropriate
for a piece of fish or meat. .
Paper bags aren’t the answer, biodegradable plastic is
We’d love you to read this from
environmental writer Julia Hailes, author of The Green Consumer Guide.
And you may be interested in this from The Grocer magazine.
As Dame Ellen Macarthur points
out, much of the problem is down to bad design.
Emma from Pastures Farm noted that they do everything they can
to reduce plastic waste at the farm. She says; ‘it is impossible with raw meat
to avoid it, especially with poultry.’
Nicola Bulgin from Beatbush Farm says she’s ordered
biodegradable food trays for her meat, but the small print annoys her; very
few plants can recycle the trays, so they end up in landfill. Where she can
(where her butchers are at markets) she cuts to order and wraps in peach
(butchers) paper and a recycled plastic bag which is the closest to a perfect
solution we have at the moment.
What we need to see is food grade packaging made from recycled
It’s not always easy to get the containers our farmers and
producers need e.g with lids, at prices they can afford and small quantities
they have room to store. Some of our farmers have started to use alternatives
to plastic packaging for selling soft fruit; you may have seen at market that
they don't have lids.
For many of our farmers their ‘stumbling block’ is their environmental health officer and
‘whatever the Food Standards Agency will dream up next’.
A few have trialed selling loose meat ‘and sales plummeted’; many
people like to pick up a pack and know the price.
Some farmers are aware that they don’t have the skills to cut
meat to order; Angelika von Heimendahl from Camcattle says;
‘We are farmers and not butchers and I don’t think I could cut
up meat to a high enough standard. It would also mean bringing a much bigger
vehicle to load up a whole meat counter rather than some chiller boxes. We
vacuum pack our beef and lamb, but we do not use any trays.’
Meat is a highly perishable good that has quite a high footprint
and extending its shelf-life is justifiable on those grounds. We do not have
too many customers ask about the plastic packaging as it’s very versatile. It can
be put in your shopping bag without additional wrapping and can go into your
fridge or freezer without adding anything.’
Lots of food for thought here; at the very least, please do bring your own bags to market!
We love our winter vegetables. Steamed, buttered sprout tops, braised red cabbage, celeriac mash, roast Jerusalem Artichokes, you're only limited by your imagination!
We receive a lot of questions about packaging and plastic usage at our markets. It is an imporant issue that requires action from everyone. Read more to see what is being done.
The mornings are dark and cold. Brassicas and root vegetables come into their own!
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