Cancel OK

Being anti-plastic is anti-environment

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Consumers’ desire to cut down on plastic waste comes from a good place.

As a society, we should strive to waste less, and businesses should make this a serious focus, as being more sustainable cuts costs and pleases consumers.

That said, the current consumer push to eliminate plastic packaging in food is ignorant and does more environmental damage than systems in place now.

The anti-plastic push has more momentum in Canada and Europe than the United States, but it’s close enough to the North American produce industry that it needs to be addressed.

The plastic reality angle was brought up by John Pandol, director of special projects for Pandol Bros. BB #:111977 Delano, CA, in his presentation at the New York Produce Show, December 11.

The most powerful part of his presentation was his citing of an article about the Michigan State University School of Packaging that ran in QA magazine.

Pandol quoted the article’s main message, “Non-biodegradable packaging that protects the food and provides for longer shelf-life can be better for the environment than biodegradable packaging of lesser quality.”

Consumers need to be reminded that the purpose of food packaging is to protect the food.

The anti-plastic push has the produce industry concerned, but think how scared the bakery industry is. A loaf of bread would be hard as a rock less than a day after purchase if it isn’t for the plastic bag.

“Imagine a world without packaging…it would be a mess,” Pandol said. “These guys obviously never packed their own lunch. I think the consumer should understand that packaging’s function is to contain, protect, and preserve the quality of the item.”

Packaging has an important function in food, and we need to talk more about that and what the alternatives are. Many times, alternatives to what we see in the produce department now are worse.

Consumers understand that food waste is bad—bad for consumers, the environment, and for businesses. Effective packaging fights food waste, no matter what it’s made of.

Pandol also brought up a potentially troubling packaging angle most people don’t want to talk about.

The feel-good promise of recycling is starting to show that much of what we think about recycling is wishful thinking, especially after China, the largest buyer of recyclable waste, stopped buying it last year.

The reality is, “Everything that is recyclable does not get recycled, and everything compostable does not get composted,” Pandol said. “I’m waiting to read in the Wall Street Journal one day that, ‘Recycling has failed, most of that stuff we collected never got recycled, we’ve been fooling ourselves for a generation, just throw it in the trash.’”

If consumers really want companies to reduce plastic usage in food, they need to be prepared for a serious look at the environmental reality and solutions.

They should also be more interested in working with businesses to get their goals accomplished than working against, as in all the boycotts and cancel culture we’ve seen rise in the last few years.

Let’s start with the idea that we all want to reduce waste and work forward rather than say, “let’s ban plastics in food” and work backwards.


Greg Johnson is Director of Media Development for Blue Book Services