Let's Talk About Plastic

When we began setting up Wonky, we were and still are very anti-plastic! Going into supermarkets and seeing bananas and apples in single-use plastic bags baffled us. Plastic-wrapped produce like this forces people to buy more than they need and therefore increases food that gets thrown away at home. To top this off, of all the plastic we use, 40% is just used once. So we set about creating a plastic-free produce box to reduce food waste, having heard very little from the growers on the subject.

Winter came and went and the hot weather arrived, this was when we began noticing the speed at which our leafy greens like frilly lettuce wilted. We went back to the growers where we learned a lot about the use of plastic with fruit & veg…

Plastic is popular - it is cheap, flexible, and promotes food safety. In the produce industry, it is used to protect things like tomatoes from being squashed and lettuce from wilting before it gets to the customer. We’ve also heard that with growers struggling with an increase in freight costs, using plastic packaging means they can pack produce more efficiently for travel and ultimately save more money.

It’s not for lack of trying - most growers don’t want to use plastic packaging, but with limited affordable options, they are left with no choice. The plastic packaging that they do use is often recyclable and in some cases isn’t plastic at all but is a bio-degradable alternative (e.g. cellulose).

Food safety standards - cut produce e.g. pumpkins & the law (more to come)

Research - if lettuce is wrapped in plastic, it will increase it’s shelf-life by 10 days. If a frilly lettuce is without plastic, it will begin to wilt within 3 days. This is very little time to get from farm to fridge!

Expectations - if a product arrives at a retailer and it’s wilted or squashed, not only does it leave the grower out of pocket, it tarnishes its reputation.

The future

Bioplastics - scientists are working on a new generation of biodegradable plastics. Common bioplastics are made from cellulose, sugarcane, corn or bamboo. These products are still expensive because to create the materials, we need land, water or ++labor.

Home compostables - more packaging will be able to break down in your home composting system. This includes the printed ink or adhesives.

What Wonky does:

  • We will avoid plastic wherever possible. We ask all our growers if they could sell their produce to us without the use of plastic - as we buy directly from growers, meaning it will reach your fridge quicker, therefore plastic is not needed to maintain freshness. In some cases, e.g. butterhead lettuce or baby silverbeet, produce may come in plastic packaging - although we know this isn’t a solution, the plastic is recyclable!
  • Where we can, we spend time packing very small things e.g. sprouts and shrooms into brown paper bags.
  • Due to food standards, most pre-cut items (cut pumpkin’s) have to be plastic wrapped.
  • We prioritise all produce that is at risk of going to waste - sometimes it may already be cut from the ground and wrapped in plastic (e.g. those items destined for the supermarkets), in this case we figure it best to give it a home instead of both food and plastic ending up in landfill.
  • We will use packaging if it is necessary to prevent food from decomposing before reaching your fridge, and ultimately creating more food waste.
  • We will collect your used boxes if you leave them out where the fresh one is dropped. Our amazing courier drivers have very little space in their van’s and love a flattened box.