Recently, when Varun Hemachandran walked into the air conditioned premises of a Nature's Basket store in Bengaluru, he noticed something he had not paid attention to before.
"I realised their fruits and vegetables were all wrapped in cling film and placed in foam trays. When I asked the cashier (there was no one else around) about this excessive use of plastic, he said the products came like that. I gave him a small lecture on the amount of garbage this is creating," recounts the young founder of 'Talking Earth'.
"And then he offered to put my stuff in a brown paper bag. I found it funny; what is the point if all the stuff inside is wrapped in plastic?," says Varun.
Varun then wrote to the customer care and after three emails, the company replied saying they are following the practice to retain the freshness and quality of the items, maintain hygiene and save time in billing.
"People think that anything that is wrapped in plastic is fresh and that's what these guys are playing into. They said they are doing it to increase the shelf life of vegetables. But it is not plastic that increases the shelf life, it is the absence of oxygen. That can be done through other sustainable materials like cellophane, which is made of biodegradable materials or cornstarch plastic," says Varun.
Trupti Karjinni, a watercolour artist, too is frustrated by the unnecessary garbage generation by big supermarkets. "It is ridiculous that supermarkets use thin plastic to cover vegetables and fruits that have a naturally hard outer covering. I saw an entire basket of watermelons individually wrapped in cling wrap. This material is not easy to recycle because it is so thin it will just clog up the recycling machine," she says.
She points out the propagation of plastic by retail giants in another way. "They have huge rolls of tearable plastic bags that one has to use to buy vegetables or fruits, for weighing and billing," she says.
MNC professional Shalini Jain is of the opinion that while it may not be completely feasible to reduce the huge dependence humans have on plastic ("In this fast-paced world, convenience is paramount. Not everyone has access to a 'subzi mandi') she does agree that we can do our bit in bringing down the quantity. "There are many alternatives and maybe the government can think of promoting their usage among companies. Soy-derived wax paper, Bee's Wrap (made from organic cotton muslin, beeswax, jojoba oil and tree resin), food grade silicone lids and stretch tops and so on."
Chemicals from plastic seeping into body
A study has suggested that traces of a synthetic chemical called Bisphenol
A (BPA) can be found in more than 80% of teenagers. BPA is added
to plastic to create impact-resistant materials. It is commonly used in
food and drink packaging but has a variety of adverse health effects,
especially on young children.
No plastic aisle
Dutch supermarket chain Ekoplaza has modified an Amsterdam store to have an entire aisle without plastic packaging. Food is displayed in glass, metal and
cardboard containers, as well as materials that can be composted. New World, a supermarket chain in New Zealand, is using a misting system to keep the
fruits and vegetables healthy in the open and limit plastic covering.