Sorry to go all Charlton Heston on you. It’s just that, based on several blog posts I’ve read, a lot of people seem to think that Evert Fresh green produce bags are plastic-free, and they are absolutely not. After calling the company several times a week for over a month to try to reach the owner, Lynn Everts, I finally received the information I needed today from his assistant, Tyra. She told me that the bags are indeed made from low density polyethylene (the same type of plastic in disposable grocery bags) combined with a special clay called oya which helps to keep produce fresher longer.
I have no doubt that these bags work. But I find it ironic that we would choose to purchase an ultimately disposable plastic bag (these bags can be reused up to 8 times) made from a material that lasts forever in the environment in order to preserve something that is completely biodegradable. Personally, I’d rather buy my produce more often and be careful to eat it in a timely manner than purchase brand new virgin plastic bags to make it last a little longer. And I’d rather compost the few produce items that do go bad than landfill plastic bags.
Others may feel that saving produce is worth the plastic. And that’s their choice. My problem is that folks who believe they are avoiding plastic may be purchasing these bags because of the way they are described on various web sites. On Amazon.com, two sellers, Greenfeet and 877myjuicer, list them as being made from “non-petroleum based materials,” while seller, Showcase, claims they are “made from all-natural, environmentally safe materials.” These claims are simply not true, and I have e-mailed Amazon to find out how to go about getting the descriptions changed.
It’s one thing for Amazon to be selling plastic bags, but it’s quite another for Reusablebags.com to promote and sell them. No where in Reusablebags.com’s description of these bags is it revealed that the base material is actually plastic. The write-up only states that the “active ingredient is a natural mineral” and further down the page proceeds to describe the mineral as a clay called “oya” which absorbs ethylene gas given off by produce as it matures. Since Reusablebags.com is a site devoted to eliminating plastic bag waste, it would be natural for a customer to assume the Evert Fresh bags were not plastic. So I’ve also e-mailed Reusablebags.com to request they update their description of this product so that their customers can make informed purchasing decisions.
Representatives from both Reusablebags.com and Evert Fresh have told me that the bags are recyclable. However, reps from neither company could provide the names of recyclers or recycling programs that would accept them. So I checked with three of my recycling insiders, and all three felt that the clay used in the bags to keep the produce fresh actually makes them a contaminant in the waste stream rather than a recoverable material. They would probably be weeded out and landfilled by plastic bag recyclers.
So, how do we keep produce fresh without plastic? It’s a good question, and I don’t have all the answers. At the farmer’s market where I table with Green Sangha, we distribute organic cotton Eco Bags, which can keep many fruits and vegetables fresh in the refrigerator if dampened. However, this past Sunday, a customer told me she’d not had good luck with loose leaf salad greens. The cloth bag couldn’t do as good a job as plastic. Any suggestions from plastic-free salad eaters?
Another customer asked me about carrots, and I did have the answer to that one! Carrots last a really, really long time if you keep them immersed in a container of water in the fridge. I like to replace the water every few days. I think this works for celery, too.
We keep apples, pears, and citrus loose in the refrigerator without any bag or container. Tomatoes and avocados stay out on the counter. Bananas stay out on the counter too but tend to turn brown pretty fast. Most other vegetables and fruits are in the dampened cotton bags in the refrigerator.
So, what are your tips for keeping produce fresh? The clay sounds like a good idea. Too bad it’s attached to a bunch of plastic.