Friday, 25 September 2009

Plums rot in the ground, but not the packaging

British plums
There has been some progress in reducing the amount of plastic encasing most of the fruit in UK supermarkets. Sainsbury’s new, lighter packaging for soft fruit including plums, cherries and strawberries has a film lid instead of the more rigid clip on lids, which is claimed to reduce the weight of the packaging by up to 87 per cent. I went to buy some a couple of weeks ago but could only find the old packaging, pictured here on the top of the photo. I popped in again a few days later and found some plums in the new packaging, see the photo below in comparison. The packaging is certainly less substantial, though nothing like an 87 per cent reduction. The label says that it is recyclable at larger Sainsbury’s stores, but I prefer to buy fruit in brown paper bags. Even soft fruit, ripe and soft, need not get squashed if you are careful with it and the paper can add some much needed fibrous matter for the compost. There is even plastic packaging for fruit and veg at farmers’ market these days, like the plums in the other photo, which I bought at Rye in Sussex.

The bigger picture of the UK plum harvest is not as positive as the NFU (National Farmers Union) recently predicted that tonnes of UK plums would be left to rot as major supermarkets including Tesco favour imported ones. Imported plums are usually picked unripe so tend to be rock hard. The UK government has called for more domestic production of fruit and vegetables, noting dramatic reductions in growing of many types of produce including cauliflowers (another type of produce which has also often left to rot and be ploughed back into the ground when supermarkets source from overseas or the veg does not meet some superficial cosmetic appearance or uniformity standard), tomatoes, lettuce and plums. Boosting domestic production is not enough if there is not action all along the supply chain so we can actually buy it, and if the major supermarkets, which sell most of the fruit and veg consumed in the UK, do make local sourcing a higher priority.

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