Organics and Plastic - a personal gripe

>> Monday, July 12, 2010

Wreck This Journal - Fruit StickersImage by Kate Blackport via Flickr

Every morning as I pack my lunch I am repeatedly reminded of how much plastic has invaded our lives, and I just have to wonder why. I'd actually like to pose this as a question to the community at large to see if anyone knows why this is:

Each little fruit or vegetable that I put in my bag has a sticker on it to identify the type of produce, as well as whether or not it's organically-sourced; these could be simple paper stickers, or better yet - laser brandings as I've heard exist. But they're tiny, plastic stickers that I know when multiplied across the millions+ of produce distributed daily translate into at least SOME more plastic nurdles floating around in the middle of the Atlantic ocean or SOME piles of never-decomposing garbage piles buried who-knows-where in America. I ask: WHY are these made out of plastic? Is it a cost benefit for the manufacturer? Do paper stickers fall off too easily (which I doubt)? Is there just loads of plastic that some manufacturer needs to get rid of?

It's not just the little, plastic stickers which are a problem though, either. Whenever you go into a store such as Trader Joes, Rainbow Foods, or Cub Foods, when you buy your produce - especially, for some reason - organic produce, odds are extremely good that it's going to be wrapped in a layer of useless, wasteful plastic.
Young coconut, prepared for commercial distrib...Image via Wikipedia
Do young coconuts, for example, really need to be shrink-wrapped in excessive layers of plastic, presumably so that a label can be applied to each one? I think not. If you take a look at farmers' markets, you'll see most of the produce there is sold individually or in bunches but not wrapped in plastic.

Of course, farmer's markets, since the subject has come up, are also another place where plastic is unnecessarily involved and therefore abused. Every seller at your market will have a stack of the disposable plastic bags on hand to dole out as customers forget to bring their own bags.  Frankly, I think everyone would be better off if those kinds of plastic bags were simply not offered. Let people find themselves without bags from home enough times and it will become second nature to always have a few on-hand, tucked in the car, or wherever. These plastic bags really are conveniences we can live without.

I'm not saying that we've freed our family from the bags, or other disposable plastic, but we're trying. We do keep our extra cloth bags with us when produce shopping. We decline the lid and straws on our few purchased drinks that come in disposable cups. We're trying. I'd just like to see producers and manufacturers try as well.

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