A short while ago I saw a comment on twitter that made me do a double take, because it gave me pause to think about an opinion I had long held over an issue close to my heart, plastic waste. For a long time I had joined the many people and organisations that were urging a change towards zero or plastic free packagaing. It made sense, that in the fight against plastic waste, surely we should be saying no to single-use food packaging, especially when the reason for it was perplexing to say the least. Apples and peppers in plastic, whole coconuts in plastic, carrots in plastic (the list goes on), it just seemed ridiculous! I liked and shared tweets of pictures of packaged foods, in the hopes that it would spark a conversation and help people to understand the sheer scale of the issue.
The thing is though, it wasn’t just apples and peppers, coconuts and carrots. It was pre-sliced apples and peppers, pre-cut carrots, segmented oranges and so on. All of this, at the time, seemed to be yet another way that the human desire for convenience had once again resulted in yet more single use plastic, to the detrimnet of the planet.
And this is why the comment made me double take, because it brouht to light an issue that I hadn’t even thought of, that I was completely ignorant to. The comment was made by a woman who quite simply brought it to our attention on Twitter that actually, pre-prepared food is a life-line for many people who rely on it to maintain independence. People who are not able to prepare their own food, due to a disability for instance, would otherwise be forced into a situation where fresh fruit and veg might not be an option, at least not without help.
I can’t apologise for having been ignorant to this issue, we are all guilty of ignorance to some degree, especially to issues we have never encourntered, but I don’t believe it is right to maintain ignorance, and hopefully by sharing this it will help others to be less ignorant too.
The fact is that packagaing itself has become a synonym for plastic in many cases. We call for no more packagaing and we demonise it online, when really what we want is no more plastic. Yes, in some instances packagaing really does seem to be pointless, take many of the whole fruit and veg multipacks for example, but clearly there is an argument for it in many cases, and we can’t just be done with it it without finding a solution to these.
In fact I find think it is only fair to find a solution, because as far as I can tell, relying on pre-packaged food to be independent, makes trying to live without plastic nigh on impossibe, and that choice should be down to the individual to make, not dictated by choice.
And then there is the argument of food waste, convenience and advertising. It is a fact that we live in a world where advertising and marketing is everywhere, we often rely on it as consumers, it is how we pick a brand we trust, learn about what is in our foods and in some cases what it might cost. Food waste is also a massive issue and in some cases packagaing really does help maintain freshness, I can’t remember the last time I bought a lettuce because of this fact. And yes…there is also convenience. Again, I have the luxury at the moment of not having to make a mad dash around a shop on what might be the only spare hour of the week, but for some people that’s exactly how it is. People are busy, often out of neccessity, and it might simply be that sacraficing an extended trip to a greengrocer and grabbing pre-prep food instead is how you get valuable family time on an evening.
So, despite doing all I can to avoid plastic, and whilst I will continue to campaign and advocate for less ‘pointless’ packagaing, I also believe there is a real reason to fight for common place plastic alternatives. Until we manage this, I find it difficult to imagine a world without single-use plastic.