Shoppers staged a ‘mass unwrap’ at the Steyning Co-op to highlight the amount of unnecessary plastic packaging used.
In protest, customers unwrapped items bagged in plastic packaging and left the plastic on a table outside, with more than 500 boxes and wrappers collected by the end of the day.
The event was part of Greening Steyning’s campaign to make Steyning, Bramber and Beeding plastic free communities.
Organiser Ronnie Reed said: “We’ve engaged with so many people over this and most are really concerned over the amount of plastic they take home after they’ve done their weekly shop.”
John Griffin from the Steyning and District Business Chamber, one of the campaign coordinators, said: “The aim of the protest was to send a clear message to Co-op headquarters, rather than staff of the local branch, that shoppers of all ages are unhappy with their unnecessary use of single-use plastic.
“Local staff have been super helpful, and besides letting us advertise the event inside the store were happy to take away all of the plastic we collected and pass it on through the Co-op’s recycling set up.”
Local resident David Howarth said: “I’ve lived in Steyning for a few years and I’ve noticed in the last two or three years that more and more vegetable and fruit are wrapped in plastic.
“I don’t think the Co-op asked the people of Steyning if they wanted their fruit and vegetables to be wrapped in plastic. So if the Co-op is a customer-responsive organisation, it should stop doing it.”
Ann Blakelock, another resident, said: “The Co-op is an ethical supermarket and they should be leading the way on this.”
Shoppers were asked to sign a petition, which read: “I urge Co-op food stores to radically cut down their use of plastic packaging, especially single-use plastics.”
More than 130 signatures were collected in a few hours, and the petition is to be handed to the store manager and passed on to the head office. Ronnie Reed said that the message was ‘received loud and clear by local Co-op staff’. Members of staff at the store explained that the packaging of items was largely out of their control, urging customers to either make their views known through the Co-op’s customer care website or, if they are Co-op members, raise the issues at members’ meetings.
The ongoing campaign for Steyning, Bramber and Beeding to become plastic-free communities is part of a wider effort involving more than 600 villages and towns around the country, spearheaded by marine conservation charity Surfers Against Sewage.
The campaign’s next event will be a stall at the Steyning Farmers’ Market on Saturday, December 7, focusing on reducing plastic use at Christmas. Greening Steyning is run by the Steyning 10:10 Climate Action Group that exists to encourage local people to take action on climate change.
To directly contact the Co-op’s customer service, shoppers can log onto www.yourstoreyoursay.com and quote store number 9818 for the Steyning store.
For more information on the area’s plastic free campaign, visit www.1010steyning.org.