Before cling film, aluminium foil and most plastics

There is so much in the news nowadays about our overuse of plastics and similar items. So today I am going back in time to my childhood and early adulthood to see how I lived without cling film, foil and plastic.

First of all I’ll look at the way my mother and I shopped for food. We had a shopping bag that was only for the use of vegetables and when we visited the greengrocers each item was placed directly into the bag. Potatoes went first as they were generally dirty, followed by carrots, parsnips and then other veggies and fruit. At the butchers, meat was wrapped in greaseproof paper and then other paper. This applied to such things as cheese and butter as well. There was no margarine around at that time! Sweets were weighed out and then put in a paper bag as were many other things.

I remember the large brown stewpot we had for stews. There were no casserole dishes around then, no slow cookers or microwaves either. There was no foil for cooking so any roasted items made a mess in the oven which was my job to clean as a teenager. But we were never ill! Sandwiches were wrapped in greaseproof paper and then perhaps placed in a tin. Cakes and pies were cooked and saved in large tins. I do remember the days before refrigerators. We had a larder, a small walk in cupboard which had a marble slab in it for keeping food cold. We also had a smaller cupboard with a mesh door in which we kept meat, covered with a dish or plate and other items. In hot weather, milk stood in a bucket of cold water in the larder.

We bought soap in bars and had one kind for the kitchen and another for the bathroom. The bathroom soap came wrapped in a thin roll of cardboard and some paper. Soap powder for laundry purposes was just that, soap powder and it came in a cardboard box. Milk was brought by the milkman with his ‘float’ or cart and horse (in my childhood) and the milk bottles were washed and returned to the milkman. Bottles of beer and lemonade could be purchased from the local pub outside sales and the empty washed bottles returned. We often had to pay a deposit on the bottle but got it back when we returned it.

Recently I have seen some large supermarkets start to use paper bags to put veggies and fruit in instead of using plastic bags. This is a good start. In the UK too much packaging is used. I know of a cake manufacture who places two slices of cake in a plastic tray, covers the tray with more plastic then puts three of these, covered in more plastic inside a cardboard box. This is far too much packaging.

So what can we do about all of this. We can start by refusing to buy products with too much packaging, work on persuading more companies to protect their products with reusable or recyclable packaging. I have been told that some larger supermarkets will also take from you items such as bread wrappers, plastic potato and other vegetable bags and recycle them. I am sure you will have plenty of other ideas but I find that as a druid I must protect our planet as much as I can. It’s not easy but we can all do our bit and then maybe others will follow and we will get rid of all the pollution we have.