Not Evangelism

Friday, January 7, 2011

Vegetables Need Not Come in Plastic Bags

Large vegetables, at any rate, don't need a bag to contain them, to help us carry them home. Cabbages, lettuce, I mean. But they're sold in bags, alongside shrink-wrapped cauliflowers, broccoli.

There are arguments about packaging protecting the vegetables; stopping the outer leaves of lettuce or cabbage from being damaged. And yet it's possible to buy vegetables in markets and greengrocers where this isn't an issue. Cauliflowers helpfully come with a thick leafy covering that's not nice to eat, and which helps to protect the nice bit inside. Clever old nature.

Who is the packaging for? Who does it help? It's all very well saying that it's for the consumer if it's true. But much of the time the packaging is for the benefit of the retailer. It's not easy to put a barcode on a cabbage leaf, is it?

Which means that I end up bringing home plastic that I can't recycle, that I have to spend time and effort disposing of, which I didn't want in the first place - certainly not once I'd got through the checkouts. What a waste.

Unless, that is, I shop at the local greengrocers, at the butchers, at those shops that aren't mass-market enterprises that need to wrap, bag and barcode everything because there's no way any of their people can know the price of the thousands of things they sell.

So a vote against veg in plastic bags is also a vote for small businesses, for people that know their stock, who are passionate about what they do. People that I can have a conversation with, build a relationship with. People that will smile and stop and chat when I visit. Most of all, people that will listen and nod when I say that I don't want a plastic bag rather than putting on their weary, fixed smiles, and absently piling thin plastic carrier bags at the end of the checkout aisle.

Vegetables need not come in plastic bags. And I need not buy them from stores that insist on wrapping vegetables in barcoded plastic waste, supposedly to make it easier for me to buy them.

Pretty straightforward, really.

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