Wednesday, 17 May 2017

The UK's Obsession with Plastic Wrapped Fresh Produce


I am currently on a short holiday in the UK and today I went into a well known supermarket wanting some salad ingredients and a few bits and bobs to see me through.  Once in the shop something quickly struck me.  Practically all the fresh produce was wrapped in plastic.  Where was all the loose produce?  In France much more is available loose and the bags you use to put it in are made from corn not plastic and are biodegradable.  Or, maybe you are like me and you take your own reusable produce bags.




I wandered around hoping to find loose products somewhere else but I failed.  So this is what I bought ...

  • Tomatoes - is a plastic tray wrapped in plastic
  • Cucumber - plastic wrapped
  • Lettuces - in a plastic bag
  • Apples and bananas - in plastic bags
  • Red pepper - loose!!

Practically ALL the fresh produce was plastic wrapped including swedes, cauliflower, broccoli, leeks etc etc.  The only colour of loose pepper available was red and all the others were wrapped in packs of 3.  Thank goodness I could get 1 loose red pepper as I didn't want or need 3.  In fact I really only wanted one lettuce but had to get 2 and I would have preferred 8 apples but they came in packs of 6 so I only got one pack.   I could have had some loose parsnips and some larger fruits such as melons and pineapples, had I wanted them, and bizarrely most of the citrus fruit was still loose.  But lose produce was definitely only a small percentage of what was on offer.  The vast majority of all fruit and veg in this supermarket was plastic wrapped, whether it needed to be or not.


Looking around, I despaired at all this unnecessary packaging that will no doubt all end up in landfill, but I saw people merrily adding all these plastic wrapped items to their baskets.  Had they brain brainwashed into believing this is the right way to buy fresh produce?  Did they even notice and or care?  I don't know but at the checkout I overheard this conversation between the cashier and lady ahead of me.

Cashier - "do you need any bags?"
   Customer - "no thank you, I have some but could I have a bag for this top."
Cashier  - "that will be 5p please"
   Customer - "oh well don't bother then - are all your bags 5p?"
Cashier  - "yes - you only get them free when you use them for fresh produce" *
   Customer - "what a pity you have to pay for them"
Cashier - "I know, it is, isn't it?"

*Well that won't be often, then, I thought!

Having to spend out 5p on a plastic bag, that in this case the customer didn't even need, is working as a deterrent but the message about WHY we need to cut back on plastic has not got through, either with the public or with supermarket bosses.  Ironically, the UK may have seen single use plastic carrier bag use dramatically decline since the 5p levy has been applied but in the same time frame the use of plastic bags and packaging to wrap fresh produce has greatly increased.  This is totally unnecessary and completely unsustainable. 

Is this supermarket typical or can you easily get your produce free from plastic in the UK?
Does your fresh produce generally come plastic wrapped or have you found ways to avoid all this single use plastic?


12 comments :

  1. HI Rosie,
    I wonderful the same thing in the US - why they wrap so much produce and other food items in plastic when there is many safer alternatives. World wide we have such a pollution problem with plastic I would think that the food producer would find a safer and healthier way. Pinned & twitter. Thanks for sharing your thoughts. Have a healthy, happy & blessed day.

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    1. Thank you Marla and I totally agree - in many cases it doesn't need to be wrapped anyway.

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  2. excess wrapping bugs me, everytime I buy a birthday card, small thin, easily slips in handbag, already in a plastic film, they put it in a bag, igive the bag back.
    we have free bags in dubai in the supermarkets, hubby say we should take them back to the UK and sell them at 3p each lol i take my own bags shopping but they pack here for you and when you say, no thanks, i have my own bags,tehy nod and pack into the plastic bags and put them in your bag..........oh and 90% of our fruit and veg here is loose

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    1. Interesting and good that so much produce is loose in Dubai - now they just need to not be handing out those plastic bags as I am not sure a 5p equivalent levy on the bags would work in such a generally wealthy country as Dubai.

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  3. It is ridiculous! Everything seems to be wrapped when there is no need...Although Tesco are quite good. When I do my weekly shop they deliver a few things loose without any plastic! Bananas, peppers, swede and big tomatoes. They come in paper bags. #PoCoLo

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    1. Nice to hear at least some produce is arriving in paper bags. In France all the produce bags at supermarkets are now made from cornstarch but I still either take my own reusable ones or at least reuse the cornstarch ones as many times as I can.

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  4. Now I think of it, most of the fresh is wrapped where I shop most of the time. It's a bit crazy.... #pocolo

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    1. ... and the trouble is the more that produce becomes plastic wrapped the more "normal" it becomes to customers and so no one will question it ... and may in fact reject unwrapped food as "dirty" :(

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  5. I find it rather annoying to have everything wrapped in plastic...what if I only need one? Or want to be sure some are more ripe and others are less ripe? I just get what is packaged. Thanks for sharing on the Waste Less Wednesday blog hop!

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    1. Exactly, I didn't want a large bag of carrots and would have ended up throwing most out had I bought them (there was no composting facilities at the apartment I was staying in) .. so I went without. In contrast when you buy fresh produce at French markets you can ask for more or less ripe which is a great way of ensuring your peaches, for example, are all ripe when you want to eat them.

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  6. It's bonkers isn't it - especially the vac-packed veg that you peel before eating in any case. Drives me potty, and I don't even buy veg at supermarkets, I use the greengrocers that's on our local parade of shops and sometimes even they wind me up trying to put everything into a paper bag, but at least it's paper! Thanks for sharing with #PoCoLo

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  7. I really wish we had a greengrocer in our town, because I agree, I dislike all the unnecessary packaging on fresh produce. In fact, more often than not, I will not buy something if I think the packaging is a waste. My husband is particularly frustrated about it, because he works in the waste industry and sees first-hand just what sort of tonnage we are sending to landfill from materials that cannot be recycled.

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