The experience of trying to spend 24 hours without coming into contact with any type of plastic in a big city like Madrid yields two great conclusions. The first it is impossible. The second: less and less strange looks are returned to you in establishments when you express squeamishness against the material of yore and without plastic in July.
In fact, today it is difficult to find a business where they have not introduced some measure to reduce the massive consumption of bags, films and synthetic wrappers that contemporary life imposes, although these small gestures continue to coexist with the varied assortment of plastic solutions that usually line it everything.
Behind a hill of sea bass, sea bream, mackerel and red mullet, Armando Ramírez transmits signals of complicity at the invitation to place his products in a container brought from home. He attends the Fuentes fishmonger, in the La Cebada food market, located in the central neighborhood of La Latina in Madrid, and he claims to have regular customers who suggest this homemade and sustainable packaging formula . «Two out of 10 ask me to put it in the ‘tupper’.
Above all, young people. And there are more and more, “he says. Your alternative, if no one tells you otherwise, is to wrap the fish in brown paper, which has a laminated side so as not to fall apart in contact with the humidity of the food, and put everything in a plastic bag…. “I have no others,” he apologizes.
In front of his stand is Frutas Selectas Paco, a business run by the aforementioned and his wife, Victoria. Both confirm the new times that the world of everyday shopping packaging is going through. “A lot of foreigners live in this neighborhood. Those, almost all of them already arrive with their cloth basket and mesh bags to put in each one of them the fruits and vegetables they buy – they assure -. And more and more young people are signing up. to this idea . ”
They have also begun to change some habits: for a year they have been serving the pieces of fruit in paper cones and six months ago they began to offer their customers recycled plastic bags. They know that there are also potato starch ones, but they are not convinced: “They don’t hold anything, they break right away. Vegetable bags still have a turn left,” they suggest.
Paper bags at the supermarket
The shopping basket is probably the daily activity that moves the highest volume of synthetic packaging per day. Especially if you try to fill the fridge by going to supermarkets and supermarkets, a natural habitat for sliced york blisters and pre-cut fruit trays. But something begins to move in this sacred temple of plastic. “Since the end of last year, we have served all the bulk products in paper bags,” announces José, a fruit vendor at the El Corte Inglés supermarket in Puerta del Sol. Behind him there is a wall covered with broccoli, leeks, mangoes and plasticized zucchini. Some, even, by units. “But less and less are being sold. In the last year I have noticed a change. People are getting mental about this issue,” observes the seller.
Customers are not the only ones who have begun to distrust the abuse of non-biodegradable packaging. “We wrap the ham and cheese in aluminum foil. We also have cork trays and ‘film’ for those who ask for them, but we try to use them little, so as not to contaminate,” explains Ramón, the supermarket butcher. Despite these advances, the classic El Corte Inglés bag is still made of plastic. Impossible to find another solution in the checkout line of these department stores.
It is impossible to order a menu from a posh restaurant to consume at home that does not come in a plastic container
Unless you go to the cafeteria with the thermos under your arm, there is no way to take a coffee home without plastic. In the disposable glass sector, cardboard is now the dominant element – yes, with the inner surface laminated to prevent it from softening – and the spoons have been transformed, most of the time, into sticks. flattened wood. However, in the lid that covers the container, the outlaw material resists like a vestige of another time.
This is the case in most bars and cafes, although the Starbucks chain has devised a formula to combat plastic by involving its customers in this company: “We deduct 40 cents from each coffee if you bring your own container or take it with you in our reusable cups “, informs Marta, a clerk at the Calle de Alcalá franchise, next to a tower of pasta tubes decorated with the famous multinational logo and a sign announcing the offer. And do people use them? “More and more often. More than for the discount, I would say that by polluting less. Our clientele is becoming aware”, clarifies the waitress.
The clerk makes a face of circumstances when he hears the client’s request: “Do you have toys that are not made of plastic?” After several seconds of tense silence, the manager of the Sarasús toy store on Atocha street in Madrid tries to get out of trouble: “Is a stuffed toy worth it?” . Soon he realizes: “For small children we have wooden puzzles,” he warns, taking out of a closet a collection of birch demountables that, oh surprise, are embedded in a plastic film.
Trying to avoid the blissful stuff at a Chinese-made goods bazaar is even more difficult: Everywhere you look, there’s plastic on the item’s invoice or in the casings that wrap it. In the Delinarte stationery store on Jesús and María street, they believe they have found a tempting product: “This Japanese pen is made of wood and metal, it does not contain any plastic,” offers the shop assistant. Your sustainable alternative is a Pilot brand pen made with material extracted from Font Vella water bottles. “It is plastic, but recycled,” he warns.
The pandemic has forced a multitude of restaurants to change the relationship they had with many of their customers, who have become addicted to enjoying delicacies at home that they previously enjoyed in establishments. Curiously, in the food delivery sector, ‘fast food’ defeats haute cuisine in the war against plastic . Paper bags, cardboard boxes and packaging made of biodegradable material reign supreme in the tools that hamburger shops, pizzerias and fast food chains usually offer their customers.
On the other hand, it is impossible to order a menu from a posh restaurant to consume at home that does not come in a plastic or aluminum container covered by plasticized cardboard. “We do not see the food that travels inside, but we do see the packaging. People do not imagine the amount of plastic we transport every day,” acknowledges Elías, a Glovo deliveryman who usually patrols the streets of Madrid.