I was forced to take a hiatus from the blogarena, I was busy making my doctors richer! :). I am back with my take on the processed food industry (not again!!). The number of products on the super market shelves and the never ending series of new product launches will keep green crusaders busy for a long time. This post is going to be all about fruits in a plastic container.
The product: Fruit (with or with out a syrup base) packaged in plastic containers. (I restricted the scope of my product choice to explain the associated issues better).
It may seem very normal and innocuous on the surface. All the talk about pre-cut, packaged fruit being a matter of convenience and a time saving option tempts normal mortals into buying them. Exemplary advertising techniques make these products look oh-so-appealing. An average city bred consumer would not bother about amount of processing and packaging which translates into this “convenience” for them. It is really painful to see the number of people missing out on the energy and resources being drained out on an industry which need not exist. Producing some thing for the sake of creating jobs may seem like a stroke of economic genius, but long term costs on the environment weigh too much compared to the short term economic growth.
Corporates focus on production, new product lines, sales figures and “creating wealth for the share holders” …REALLY?!!!..It is short term gains and losses which matters most to them. The management and business development teams love to speak numbers and sales graphs and their sense of corporate responsibility ends there. They are too happy incorporating “Environmental Accounting” in their Financial Accounting/System and ERPs. But why do they and we as consumers miss out on considering the bigger picture?
All these product processing ,manufacturing ans retailing companies have considerable clout in the market, and can influence consumer behavior. If they think beyond filling their coffers, they can surely make a difference.
Each day, millions of these plastic containers are bought, used and trashed. Every single cup ends up in the landfill or chokes drains and water sources (especially in India). This is because either they are not recyclable in the municipality or people don’t care about their trash.
A long term solution (s)…
There should be a compulsory Trash Lifecycle Management should be made a mandatory subject in Schools and Colleges. A heavy penalty must be imposed on those who do not apply the fundamentals learnt in this class. I don’t see any other workable rational approach to the whole issue.
We as consumers can make a difference, we can follow Gandhiji’s Satya Graha principles and silently stick to natural fruit (locally available and seasonal) and ban pre-cut packaged fruit/food out of our lives. This shift will force these companies to rethink their business strategy and make eco-friendly choices in their supply chain management. They will at least start by diverting resources to business ideas which translate into growth in real terms and not the “apparent” growth they are used to as of now. I have been strong with my argument that over production and excessive consumption does not mean growth. And if some one says so, then they need a crash course on sustainability management and economics as a whole. People who talk about “systems approach” at work have no clue that it extends to their regular living too!
Apart from damage caused by the non-biodegradability of these styorfoam and plastic material, BPA in the plastic packaging leaches toxins (mainly dioxins) into the pre-cut food and makes them hazardous. This happens because fruits and vegetables release juices which are acidic and BisphenolA (BPA) can turn an innocent fruit or a vegetable into a pure Carcinogenic bomb!
How does that happen?
Dioxins, for example, cause a long list of health problems. According to the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, exposure to Dioxins leads to reproductive and developmental problems.
Lets help ourselves…
In the kind of environment we live in today, exposure to hazardous substances is unavoidable. The least we could do is to work our way through small changes to make a big difference. We could minimize occurrence of cancer, fertility issues and other lethal and chronic ailments in our kith and kin. All we have to do is to make very simple and wise choices and there by will spare the planet of all the unnecessary trouble it is going through. The N number of preservatives, additives and colour management ingredients which go into extending shelf life of these packaged goods are no good either…adding sugar and syrups to fruits is like insulting God’s creation – Naturally sweet and yummy fruits!
Another simple way to go about making a difference is to buy local and eat only seasonal vegetables to avoid all the energy and resources spent on a product/vegetable/fruit being shipped all the way across the globe. We dont live in a perfect world…Agreed! Look at the issue in terms of statistics…Let us take the case of United States as this country represents the maximum number of consumers seeking convenience per se. Time and again it has been reported that this country alone generates over 28% of waste generated on the planet. (Phew!)
- Not drinking hot and cold fluids out of plastic/wax paper/styrofoam cups
- Not using plastic containers to cook or reheat food
Stop buying in bulks, do not buy fresh fruit being suffocated like this either. Fruits release Ethylene and when placed in plastic, can ripen and rot faster too…its nothing but money down the drain!! (this arguments works for people who cannot think beyond money and do not care a damn about their impact on the environment)
Lets see sense and make our lives on the planet better!
Images courtesy: Internet and company websites