Bulk buying

Action: Buy in bulk with family and friends

Bulk buying with family and friends saves plastic, carbon, and cash – and is fun!

Generally, if you buy larger packets, boxes or bottles of “stuff” from the supermarkets, the cost per unit is less, and the packaging used is less. The trouble is, of course, that we might not want to spend the money up front on many weeks supplies, or have the storage space for it in our homes.

The answer to this dilemma is to team up with family and friends and create bulk buying partnerships.

It doesn’t have to be anything formal, just agree amongst yourselves when you need things.

Let’s have a look at three examples. Yes, we know that ideally you wouldn’t use a product with plastic packaging at all, but the maths is important! All prices will have been superseded by now but the percentage savings are the same of course.

Rice (save 25% in cash and 43% in plastic packaging)

In Sainsbury’s supermarkets, a Salaam basmati rice 10kg bag cost £12.00, which is equivalent to £1.20 per kilo.

In the same shop, a small (1kg) bag of Sainsbury’s own basmati rice costs £1.60

Family at supermarket checkout

That’s a 25% price saving, which is massive!

At the same time, you’d be saving a lot of packaging; a 1kg bag of rice can be represented by a box 10cm x 10cm x 10cm, which means an overall plastic surface calculated as 10 x 10 x 6 sides, which equals 600 square centimetres. If you bought 10kg of rice this way that would be a total packaging coverage of 6,000 square centimetres.

On the other hand, a single 10kg bag of rice can be represented by a box which is 10cm x 20cm x 50cm. This means a total plastic surface of (20 x 10 x 2 ends) plus (50 x 10 x 2 sides) plus (50 x 20 x 2 main panels). That gives a total packaging coverage of 3,400 square centimetres.

That’s a saving of an amazing 43% in packaging! In fact, this example of the maths is very simplistic, and in reality manufacturers use optimum packaging dimensions which will reduce plastic use even further.

So if three families take 3.3 kilos of rice each for the kitchen cupboard, that’s a really meaningful contribution to plastic waste and will save each family 25% of the cost of their rice too.

Toilet rolls (save 40% in cash and 55% in plastic packaging)

We can do a similar piece of maths comparing a packet of 45 Andrex toilet rolls purchased on Amazon (£16.25) with the price of 11 packs of four Andrex toilet rolls purchased in Sainsbury’s.

Amazon bulk price £16.25 = 36p per roll

Sainsbury’s normal price £2.50 = 62p per roll

So that’s a saving of over 40%, for exactly the same product.

As for the packaging … well I won’t bother you with the sums this time but believe me when I tell you that the surface area that needs to be covered is at least a massive 55% less on the bulk pack than the 11 small packs.

So if each of four partners in a bulk buy takes 11 toilet rolls, they’d be reducing plastic packaging use by 55% and the cost of their toilet rolls by 40%.


Vegetable oil (save 8% in cash and 37% in plastic packaging)

Finally, lets have a quick look at a liquid example, although I’m sure you get the point by now.

Most families buy vegetable oil for cooking, and typically in the supermarket this will be available in 1 litre plastic bottles.

Sainsbury’s 1 litre of own brand vegetable oil costs £1.09

In the same shop, a 5 litre container of KTC standard vegetable oil cost £5.00, i.e. £1.00 per litre.

That is a saving of over 8% on the price of the oil.

And similar to the other examples, the amount of plastic used to make the containers is significantly reduced, this time by around 37%.

All that’s needed is for (say) three families to save some empty oil bottles for refilling, which – as a bonus – also means keeping those out of landfill as well!

Take action

There are many examples like these we are sure you can think of.

You’ll know from our other articles how important it is for us to reduce our use of plastics, especially in single use packaging. This is a great way of saving lots and lots of plastic use, and saving money too. Please get together with family, friends and work colleagues and start buying in bulk … you know it makes sense!


Prices will change but the principle remains. Sizes and prices will vary from shop to shop but there will always be a cash and plastic saving on bulk buys, especially if you shop around online as well as at the supermarket.

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