From tomatoes to yoghurts, soap powder to beer, the packaging that infuriates you
Tuesday 23 January 2007
Fruit & vegetables
At Budgens, I wanted two oranges only and, not seeing any individual ones on display, reluctantly I picked up a bag of six. Some will rot before I get round to eating them all.
It is no longer possible to buy ordinary tomatoes loose in our branch of Tesco. You have to buy six in a plastic container. Why has this changed? I don't want them packed in plastic.
Even though cauliflowers are sold almost entirely protected by their green leaves, Tesco insists on putting each one into a plastic bag.
I shop at Waitrose and stand at the till each week removing plastic packaging from: swedes, parsnips, passion fruit, peppers, mushrooms, cucumbers, lettuce, bananas, spring greens, cabbage - in fact, nearly all fruit and vegetables.
I recently bought from Waitrose a small head of broccoli, sold loose, weighing just over 300g. Price 48p, weighed by myself. In the adjacent bin was apparently identical broccoli - not organic - shrink-wrapped and priced at £1.47 for 300g, i.e. an extra £1 for the wrapping.
Dr Ann Soutter
A couple of weeks ago, I bought a half cucumber from Sainsbury's that had originally been a whole shrink-wrapped cucumber cut in half, and then wrapped again in its own plastic wrapper, therefore wrapping it twice.
After living in France for four years, I was shocked when I returned to England and found that I couldn't even buy a lettuce in my local supermarket - only pre-packaged, ready washed salad mixes. In France, there is virtually no pre-packaging of fruit and veg.
The most recent annoying practice in Sainsbury's - a cauliflower, minus all its outside leaves, encased in a rigid "football" style, transparent, hinged container. It costs about 50p more than an unwrapped one.
Today, I almost walked out of Sainsbury's with a single apple in a large plastic Sainsbury's bag. I took my apple out of the bag and gave it back to the cashier.
I've often wondered why Tesco packages sweet potatoes in little black plastic trays with cellophane wrapping. Of all the vegetables, the sweet potato is among those least vulnerable to damage or bruising.
Tesco or Marks & Spencer's finest range of fruit and vegetables come on trays with a hard plastic top followed with a second plastic wrapping to encase the tray. It is ridiculous.
Morrisons also sell individual bananas in a plastic tray wrapped in clingfilm. Great campaign!
Products like hummous, paté, dips and olives have an unnecessary double layer - they often have a cardboard outer sleeve in addition to the plastic container, when this could suffice if it was sealed and had the information printed on the outside.
Shopping in Asda just today, I found a beaut - surplus packaging a-go go. Müller are the culprits and it's their "Müllerice" range. I thought, "blimey, that's a lot of card for six packaged yoghurts" - it's the sheer size of the packaging compared to the size of the yoghurts that struck me.
A low from M&S that I spotted several weeks ago: microwave porridge for one. How sad is that? Homemade porridge takes five minutes to make, is cheap, nourishing, untainted, with estrogen-mimicking chemicals, and creates no waste.
Emily van Evera
Tesco wrapping groups of tins in plastic film - if I want four tins of beans I don't need the shop to wrap them for me.
Occasionally, I buy a takeaway cheeseburger from McDonald's with the intention of eating it immediately. They always put the wrapped burger in a paper bag without asking. The McDonald's is next to a playing field which regularly fills with rubbish from their customers.
Yeo Valley organic yoghurt tubes are in a plastic tray and a cardboard box - just the box would be sufficient. This is quite surprising as normally "organic" companies are more environmentally friendly.
Waitrose frozen fish comes wrapped in sealed clear plastic bags with a re-sealable zip. This is then packed in a box. I often leave the box at the checkout.
Carling, Carlsberg and Stella all protect their lager in a tin can. However, if you buy their multi-packs those same cans are further protected in a cardboard box and to protect the box is a covering of plastic.
When I go to the Continent, my beers come in bottles that have all been reused. Here, every time I have a beer, the bottle gets smashed, driven around, melted, put back together again and driven to the brewery for refilling. Why can't we just keep re-using the bottles like our friends across the Channel?
Confectionery and bread
The chocolate bars in a Cadbury's Selection Box are wrapped in a protective foil, then a glossy paper wrapper, sat in a moulded plastic tray, before being put in a cardboard box.
A couple of years ago, Mr Kipling started wrapping his cake slices in packs of two, within a pack of six. Exceedingly wasteful...
Easter eggs - often the box is twice as big as the egg itself, sometimes even bigger.
I recently went into a café where coffee and cakes were being bought for the office: eight coffees in paper cups put in cardboard containers... eight cakes put in individual paper bags, put in a paper carry bag. How many times in the day does that happen?
Cleaning products & laundry
When I run out of fabric conditioner or any other non-food item, why do I have to send the empty bottle for recycling? Why can't the supermarkets provide the facilities simply to go and get the old bottle refilled?
Ecover Ecological Washing Tablets. I bought these because they claim to care about the planet and limit pollution to waterways, but each pair of tablets are wrapped in plastic before being packed into a cardboard box.
Computers & electricals
Memory cards for digital cameras... the product itself is only 1cm square, but the packaging it comes in is about 12cm x 18cm - that's 216 times bigger, at least 10 times heavier and made of plastic so thick I defy anyone to be able to open it with bare hands.
I bought a Hewlett Packard black ink printer cartridge the other day and was shocked at the useless and unnecessary packaging it came in: a clear plastic box, a cardboard box with all the printing on, a foil wrap, two plastic trays surrounding the cartridge and, finally, the ink cartridge.
One of the worst excesses is in the software world. All programmes on sale are in boxes something like 10 times the necessary size. That large box on the shelf rarely contains more than one CD and a small booklet.
I made my first Ocado shop and was shocked to see how many plastic bags the shopping turned up in. The delivery man said that they were in different bags because they had different types of food in them.
When I was a child and growing up in Germany, we used paper bags. We even got meat etc wrapped in greaseproof paper. Paper you can easily recycle or even just compost at home.
Compare Tesco and Carrefour (Europe's biggest grocer): 1) Carrefour sells products in bulk. 2) A lot less of their fruit and veg is shrink-wrapped. The French still pick up and smell their vegetables before purchasing them (they are also more used to products being unavailable certain seasons). 3) Carrefour no longer provides free carrier bags to its customers.
Stationery companies are shocking. No matter how small the order is it will arrive in a large box. Then inside the large box is a smaller box and a smaller box, then finally you get to the bubble-wrapped item.
Every time I opened a Christmas or birthday present for my daughter this year, I had to grapple with an infuriating amount of cardboard and plastic retainers used to hold items in place.
How you can help
Do you have an example of absurd packaging? Have you been infuriated by the waste with something you bought? If so, tell us and we will highlight it in The Independent and take it up with the companies concerned. Send your examples to firstname.lastname@example.org
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