The blog formerly known as   Fake Plastic Fish
May 12, 2008

Week 47 Results: .05 oz of plastic waste and A CONTEST

So the million dollar question is: Why do organic bananas come with a little bit of plastic around the stems when regular bananas do not? Inquiring minds want to know. There’s plenty of speculation, but I haven’t heard the definitive answer from an expert. So here’s the contest: Since I don’t actually have a million dollars to spend, I’ll give away your choice of Sierra Club’s Hey Mr. Green, which I reviewed last week, or the Ridley plastic bag carrier, also reviewed last week, to the first person who can find the answer to the banana question. It must be an answer from an actual expert. A produce clerk might be okay if they really seem like they know the answer and are not just speculating out of thin air. But I’d really like the answer to come from someone in the banana industry, and I just don’t have the time to find out for myself. I’m sure the rest of FPF readers will thank you for your efforts. Oh, and Terrible Person, I think you are automatically disqualified because you live with me, so while I welcome your research skills, you can’t win the prize.

All right, here’s last week’s tally. It’s all new plastic.

  • 2 pieces of plastic from a couple bunches of organic bananas
  • 1 strip of tape from a package that was sent to me (But at this point I can’t remember which package it was.)
  • 1 plastic wrap from the opening of a Preserve toothbrush container
  • 1 bandaid and 1 piece of medical tape from donating blood last Monday. There is soooo much plastic involved in giving blood, but this is the only type I brought home with me. In fact, I plan to write more about plastic tubing and medical bags later this week because some of the plastic issues are quite troublesome.

That’s it for last week. I’m 5 weeks away from the 1-year anniversary of FPF! What should we do to celebrate? Let’s start planning the party now!
 

17 comments
Anonymous
Anonymous

I wondered about the plastic tape on the organic bananas as well. That is how I ended up here. Not only is there plastic tape but beneath the plastic tape there is paper tape. If I had to guess I would say that the paper tape is probably treated with something to prevent deterioration of the stem by some pesky fungus. As far as identication of the product by the checker this may work but I doubt the banana producers would care abou that enough to put tape on every bunch of bananas. They are marked as 'Organic' and if there is a problem with people switching labels I suppose they are the same people that try this with other retail items as well. There will always be dishonest people.

Timmie's Adventures
Timmie's Adventures

I forewarded your site to my wife who is a green team member in her company. I challenged her team to see if they can figure out how much plastic they (as a company) are sending out.I missed the photo of you as a brita filter :o(

Aimee
Aimee

Since I was picking up some fruits and veggies at the market yesterday, including some bananas, I figured I'd take the opportunity to approach the resident produce guy about the plastic bands. He said that its very easy to split apart bunches of bananas, and typically not all of them have the 94011 sticker on them indicating that they're organic. Having the plastic on them makes it very easy for the checkers to identify that they're indeed organic, and therefore able to charge us the right amount...Seems to make sense to me, but once you've split a bunch, the band is no longer in place, so it doesn't really solve their problem entirely, and creates more wasted plastic...

emily
emily

This also about cheese: I heard mozzarella only takes a short amount of time to make! I'm planning on learning, so I can let you know how it goes, if you'd like!

Jason Black
Jason Black

This has nothing to do with bananas.I wonder if you have ever considered learning how to make your own cheese. A) it's fun, B) you can make sure it's organic, rBST free, etc., C) it's an excuse to avoid MORE PLASTIC!The whole subject of making cheese, to most people, induces a reaction of "uh, isn't that, like, some sort of a deep culinary black art that mere mortals should cower in fear of?"Well, no. It's actually pretty easy, depending on the type of cheese, how much space you have to work with, and how committed (or not) you want to be.I'd recommend starting with a queso fresco or paneer style fresh cheese, one where the curd is separated from the whey via lemon juice or vinegar. The equipment overhead of getting started is nothing more than a gallon of milk and a big pot to cook it in (which you probably already have).If you get really into it, you can send yourself or your spouse off to a hardware store to find supplies for making your own plastic-free cheese press (again, not too difficult, if you're willing to exercise a little creativity) that will open up a world of other cheeses to your reach.But it's definitely worth giving a try. The book I'd recommend is "Home Cheese Making" by Ricki Carroll. And while you can probably check it out from the library (another good idea, at least for your first attempt), if you decide that cheese making is something you'll want to pursue then this will definitely be a book you want to own. It has recipes for cheeses from American to Ziergerkase, as as much about the science and biochemistry of cheese making as you probably care to know.

arizonasky
arizonasky

ps--Sorry about the typos; I should have looked back over that. Oops.

arizonasky
arizonasky

As a grocery store checkout person (who has friends in the Produce department, I might add), I'm not quite an expert, but I'll say that what the people above me have said makes sense. Except in the grocery store where I work, the organic bananas do not have plastic around the top of the bunch, instead they have a large oval sticker across the several bananas at the front of the bunch proclaiming them organic... and the smaller stickers on the individual bananas are marked with the #94011 PLU instead of the usual #4011. That's the main difference in the PLUs, by the way. Organic produce will have a 9 at the front, in case you aren't sure, but it's probably clearly marked on a sign anyway... On a similar, working in a grocery store, even though I happen to love my store, is terribly depressing. More and more people are bringing in their reusable bags, but then almost every single thing I swipe across the scanner is encased in plastic. It's a little disheartening by the end of an 8-hour shift. Love the blog, by the way--I just cam across it and have been working my way through the archives!

lauren
lauren

If you read the comments on the earth first site, this is attached:One Response to “Why Are Organic Bananas Wrapped in Plastic?” 1. Luis Monge on February 21st, 2008 6:31 pm Just wanted to clarify that putting bananas in a plastic bag WILL NOT speed up their rippening process. Plastic bags are used because the retailers need that everybody pays for the product that is buying. Many people take the stickers off of the organic bananas and claim that they are conventional at the cashier. We do not make any money out of the plastic bags, we will love to avoid them, but consumers also need to help with this process. Ask your retailer to stop selling plastic bagged organic bananas. We are also looking for other altenatives to avoid plastic bags in our products, but it takes time. The comment about ethylene is just out of place, bananas are not BLASTED, since it is needed in a very small quantity, the ethylene used is not to ripe the bananas in an artificial way, the ethylene is used to start the natural ripening process, because bananas produces ethylene by themselves, so you only need a very small quantity to make it start. You can try… take a green banana put it togheter with an apple in a close space (it could be a bag, or any other recipient / container) and the ethylene produced by the apple will start the natural ripening process of the banana. As extra information, most of the Ethylene gas used (which is exactly the same molecule than the natural Ethylene contained in the atmosphere) is produce using Ethanol and a catalitic box machine. The Luis Monge name links to the Dole website. Who knows if that's reliable though.

Allie
Allie

I've been wondering too. Usually, I leave the plastic on until all of the bananas are gone, but this last time, I took it off to see what happened. The stems of the bananas turned black and hard pretty quickly. The banana was still completely edible, but I'm guessing they are much harder to sell like that, because we're not used to seeing bananas with black, woody stems.

axelle
axelle

I like the photo of one of your beautiful kittens checking out that tiny bit of your plastic waste for the week. An adorable little foster kitten sits on my lap, purring, looking at me and his plastic life of nursing bottle, Mister Microwave, dishpan litter box, carrier, container in which his formula is mixed and stored, container in which his dry food waits for him to figure out how to eat it, and an assortment of balls he doesn't yet know how to play with. These are tools I use constantly when fostering cats and kittens and I truly appreciate them,. This has nothing to do with bananas or my dislike of stickers that explain that the item they're stuck to is an apple, or an orange or a tomato and yes, let's have a party to celebrate the first birthday of FPF. Do we do it in person or over the internet?

Melissa
Melissa

I once asked the Whole Foods produce guy why they do it, and he said what hamster said...it's so the person ringing it up at the register can distinguish between the non-organic and organic.

jennconspiracy
jennconspiracy

Nice kitty*pet* *pet* *pet*(sorry, I just loves the kitties)

Erica
Erica

In grocery stores at which I shop, all the organic produce has tape wrapped around it (I think paper tape, but I'm not sure) saying "ORGANIC" alongside the PLU number. It draws the cashier's attention to the fact that this isn't the "regular" produce.The organic bananas don't always have plastic wrap on them, though -- nor do they have black mold :-) However, anti-mold seems the most logical explanation to me.

Hamster
Hamster

I don't know exactly what the plastic thing round the bananas was or how it works in the US, but here in the UK organic veg is always packaged or labelled so the cashiers can tell it apart from the tasteless, pesticide-riddled stuff (I refuse to call it 'conventional'!) when you get to the checkout, otherwise all bananas look pretty much the same. Might it be something like that?

Anonymous
Anonymous

ooo, fungicide. yummy.sandra