- 2 Aug 08, 03:55 PM GMT
I decided to pick an easy target for my first foray into plastic-free shopping: fruit and veg.
Should be very simple, after all, supermarkets sell plenty of fresh produce loose and market stalls are also an option.
But what seemed straightforward at first was more complicated on closer inspection.
Yes, I was picking up loose carrots and popping them into my trolley but the big box which they were displayed in had a layer of plastic on top.
This doesn't break the rules of my experiment - I'm not trying to cut plastic out of my life entirely, just to not add to my personal plastic mountain - but it did make me wonder where one draws the line with packaging.
Dick Searle, head of the UK Packaging Federation is not surprised that I'm scratching my head: "You may give up plastics in terms of what you buy in the stores, what you don't see of course is how they've got to the stores and a considerable amount of packaging is used to get goods into the stores.
"Even if you buy fresh produce, apples which are loose, they have been packed and then unpacked to be sold."
It's no coincidence that Mr Searle has chosen to highlight apples: an environmental "lifecycle analysis" on selected Marks and Spencer apples in 2003 found that loose fruits created more waste up to the point at which they were sold than a four-pack of apples on a biodegradable tray.
This, says the packaging industry, highlights the difficulties for consumers in trying to discern which products have the least environmental impacts.
Green campaigners, however, say it shows why we should buy locally-produced food where possible, so that food does not need to be transported all over the country - in packaging - before arriving in the shops.
But, back to my shopping list. It is still soft fruit season and our household has been getting through strawberries and raspberries by the punnet-load - the plastic punnet-load.
Could I find the berries in their naked state on the supermarket shelves? Nope. And it was the same story with lettuces, celery and cucumbers (although Co-op does sell an au naturel cucumber).
So I tried the market stall around the corner but once again the strawberries and raspberries were encased in plastic.
Now I understand why this might be - soft fruit is by its nature, crushable - but plastic punnets are a relatively recent development so what, I asked the stallholder, Alf, did strawberries used to be packed in?
He thought for a while and said: "Cardboard, and we used to do them loose too, by the scoop, they didn't used to get squashed."
"But they were a luxury in those days," his female colleague added, "you had them once a month, not all the time like now".
"Now she's the strawberry queen," chipped in Alf.
Neither knew where I could find a naked strawberry in a shop, however, but it is my mission to find one.
I may have to visit a pick-your-own farm for the first time since childhood.
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