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Gerry's Corner - Shrink-Wrap that Cucumber

Gerry Cameron - Jul 09, 2018
There is a war on plastic and rightfully so; according to the United Nations Environment Program, eight million tonnes of plastic is dumped into the ocean every year, and the damage to marine life is shocking. 

There is a war on plastic and rightfully so; according to the United Nations Environment Program, eight million tonnes of plastic is dumped into the ocean every year, and the damage to marine life is shocking.  Companies are taking notice and doing their part.  For example, A&W Canada announced that it will ban plastic straws, which will save roughly 82 million pieces of the plastic filling landfills every year, and the City of Vancouver is joining the movement by also banning the single-use item.  Personally, when I see my wife walking towards our car carrying plastic bags, it puts me in a bad mood; I really hate plastic.  It drives me crazy when I see plastic containers rolling down the streets or floating on water like abandoned boats.  Now you know where I stand.  And the scope of the war is expanding beyond bags and plastic straws.  Bottles, utensils, and food containers are now part of the battle, with the desire for a sustainable lifestyle far outweighing the convenience and low cost of these plastic items.

 

But hold on; organizations like “Green Alliance” are saying to rethink the problem.  They feel we should focus our energies from “War on Plastic” to “War on Plastic Litter” because rejecting all plastic could actually backfire and do more harm than good to the environment.  For example, people question the need to shrink-wrap produce, again using plastic, in the grocery store when nature already gave most vegetables a protected skin.  But shrink-wrap in this situation is actually beneficial to the environment.  In the book “Why Shrink-Wrap a Cucumber:  A Complete Guide to Environmental Packaging”, authors Laurel Miller and Stephen Aldridge explain that an unwrapped cucumber will lose 3.5% of its weight just after three days.  But shrink-wrapping slows evaporation, keeping the cucumber fresher for a longer period of time:  losing just 1.5% over two weeks. 

 

Most of us buy produce with the best intentions.  At Costco, I’ll walk by the aisle with Nutella to go buy those bags of broccoli.  But truth be known, most of us let fresh produce, like chard, rot before we find it tucked in the back of the fridge.  In one article, it reported that one-third of all the food bought in the UK is thrown away.  So in fact, those cucumbers that are shrink-wrapped prevent food waste.  It means less fertilizer, water, and pesticides to grow more cucumbers to replace the wasted ones.  It means less fossil fuel spent transporting additional harvests.  It means less methane gas produced by landfills where rotted produce is tossed.  In chaos theory, think the butterfly effect.

 

Lightening an environmental footprint makes all the sense in the world, and it’s good business.  But if we don’t understand the logistics behind a packaging design that does use plastic, our best intensions can fail.

 

Gerry Cameron owns and uses cloth bags and brown-paper bags when possible.