Monday, December 10, 2012

Shrink Wrapping a Cucumber: A Waste of Packaging?

Most cucumbers that I see in the grocery store are shrink-wrapped on a styrofoam [1] tray such as this:
But then there are the occasional odd ones, long and thin [2] that are sold separately with their own shrink-wrap, such as this:
For reasons that are unknown to me, some people (1, 2, 3) are upset about the shrink-wrapped cucumbers. I say unknown as there is far more packaging materials in the former picture than in the latter, but it doesn't matter much as the bigger issue is that there is any packaging around the cucumber. The reasoning is that after all, there is no packaging on other vegetables such as broccoli, tomatoes, avocados, peppers...so why on a cucumber?

As is typical with packaging, the situation is complicated with many hidden elements - there is more than just the initial appearance. A new book, "Why Shrinkwrap a Cucumber?: The Complete Guide to Environmental Packaging" addresses many of these issues. With regards to the film on the gherkin-wannabe, the authors write
"...research shows that a wrapped cucumber lasts more than three times as long as an unwrapped one. It will also lose just 1.5 per cent of its weight through evaporation after 14 days, compared with 3.5 per cent in just three days for an exposed cucumber. A longer life... means less frequent deliveries, with all their consequent energy costs, and, crucially, less waste. Globally, we throw out as much as 50 per cent of food, often when it perishes. It typically goes to landfill and gives off methane, a greenhouse gas."
The most poignant commentary that I've ever read on the whole packaging issue however, is this:
"Some materials, such as glass, hardly seem to register on [consumer's] environmental radar, while others, particularly plastics, are never off it."
Rational? No. Reality? Yes. And so goes the battle.


[1] Yes, I know that I should be saying expanded polystyrene foam or EPS, as Styrofoam is actually the registered trademark of Dow for their EPS that is used in insulation or floral arrangements. But it is so much easier to say styrofoam and it communicates better too...

[2] For some reason, they seem to be called English hothouse cucumbers and are seedless. Compared to the regular cukes, they are pricey, but a wonderful addition to my wife's šaltas barščiai (the Lithuanian version of cold borscht, made with buttermilk...)

16 comments:

Bend said...

In Bulgaria, the cold cucumber soup is made with yogurt, water and cucumbers, seasoned liberally with garlic and dill and garnished with ground walnuts and sunflower oil.

John said...

Sounds really good and refreshing, just like the barščiai is.

Sandeep Goyal said...

I totally agree with the blogger. Wrapping a Cucumber is really a waste of packaging.

Anonymous said...

I do believe that the reason why some warps a cucumber is for presentation purposes. It's more appealing to the buyer is you see that a vegetable is packed presentably.

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preeti said...

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nicklerwashers said...

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