Pack Off

The other day I bought a packet of pâté (yes, I do make my own when I have the time). It came on a little brown plastic tray with a trapezoidal clear plastic cover. OK, it was from one of the supermarket “premium” ranges but, but just because it’s a better-then-average quality product doesn’t mean it needs a fancy package. The same wrapping as the ordinary pâtés would suffice.

There’s an awful lot of waste in this country and a significant proportion of it is down to food packaging that’s unnecessarily complex or just simply unnecessary.

As an example of the former, consider those containers (e.g. for pies and tarts) that are part cardboard and part clear plastic bonded together. How are you meant to recycle that? I do try ripping out the plastic bits and putting the cardboard in the recycling box but I bet most people don’t bother.

But it’s in the fresh fruit and veg department where things really get out of hand. Do avocados need to be in a twin-pack with a soft fibrous base and a cellophane wrapper? The fact that the same shop is also selling them loose suggests not. Does a cucumber need to be sealed into a plastic sheath? It may help to prevent the water evaporating and the cucumber shrivelling up but, if it’s been that long since the thing was picked, it’s not exactly fresh, is it?

The very worst example is sweetcorn – stripped of its natural protective coating of coarse leaves and soft fibres and then wrapped in plastic. Just how perverse is that?

[Curiously, some things that do need protection because they bruise easily are often not given it – English apples thrown into boxes where they develop brown festering patches at each point of impact; watercress stuffed into flat plastic bags instead of being tied into a tradition protective bunch.]

As enlightened, responsible consumers we ought to demand an end to this nonsense – and act. Why pick up half a dozen pre-packed tomatoes, thus adding to the mountains of plastic accumulating in the oceans? Are we really so pressed for time that we can’t take a few seconds to select a few loose one and put them in a bag? [I have to admit I’m as guilty as anyone on that score.]

And it’s time convenience stores stopped being convenient and concentrated on being responsible, environmentally-friendly purveyors of fresh, seasonal, quality produce. It’s no excuse to say that they’re only giving the customers what they want. They’ve done a good job in the past at persuading customers to accept second-rate, non-too-fresh, grown-for-appearance-rather-than-flavour, over-processed food for the sake of convenience. Now they can jolly well help to reverse the process.

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