Stop using plastic mesh bags and styrofoam/cellophane wrap for fresh produce!
Stop using plastic mesh bags and styrofoam/cellophane wrap for fresh produce!
Why this petition matters
Every day, consumers are faced with the dilemma of having to buy fresh produce packed in single use plastic in our grocery stores. Fresh fruits and vegetables packaged in plastic netting, wrapped in cellophane on styrofoam trays. None of these plastics are recyclable, reusable or biodegradeable. They end up on the landscape, in our landfill and in our waterways, damaging plants and animals and inevitably, human health. Major grocery store chains versus local produce markets are often the only shopping choice for people, especially during pandemic lockdowns, and these stores have the most potential to change the way food is packaged.
We want to see a reduction of unnecessary food packaging in Canada and Ontario towards a zero waste future. Please let these grocery store chains, and our ministers of environment and fisheries and oceans know how you feel.
Grocery store chains, here's a link to a guide put together by Greenpeace called "The Smart Supermarket: How Retailers Can Innovate Beyond Single-Use Plastic and Packaging" https://www.greenpeace.org/static/planet4-canada-stateless/2019/11/105a74a7-smart-supermarket-english-final.pdf
Consumers, want to know where the plastic goes once you've unpackaged your fresh produce?
A well-researched article from Foodprint.org spells it out very well (https://foodprint.org/reports/the-foodprint-of-food-packaging/#section_10 here is just some information:
The Problem with Single-Use Plastics
Forty percent of the demand for plastic is generated by single-use plastic products.1 Single-use (or disposable) plastics — like the cup, lid and straw for your iced coffee, or your water bottle, or the plastic container your cherry tomatoes come in — are all designed to be used only once before being thrown away or recycled, with no obvious plan or pathway for reuse.
Some single-use items are essential and have made things not only convenient but safer. A great example is the plastic water bottle, a million of which are bought across the globe every minute.2 In places where the water supply is not reliable or safe, of course, bottled water can be life-saving. But for many people in this country, bottled water is more about convenience, taste (or the perception of taste) and our susceptibility to the claims of the companies peddling the bottled water: that it comes from fresh mountain springs or offers unspecified health benefits.
It’s not just plastic bottles we’re using once and tossing. We’ve come to expect that a lot of our food will be packaged and served to us in a single-use fashion, and it’s gotten to the point where it’s hard to imagine another way to sell, transport or eat food.
Plastic Pollution from Food Packaging
Plastic packaging makes our lives more convenient, but at what expense? Its durability means that it never disappears. Its constant presence in our daily lives (including in our food packaging) has led to widespread pollution. So where do plastics go when we’re done with them? Some are recycled, some are incinerated, but most end up in landfills or enter the environment as litter.
Most plastics do not biodegrade. Instead, they break down into ever smaller pieces called “microplastics” that are carried by the wind and water and deposited in the environment, spreading plastic pollution to all corners of the world, from the top of the French Pyrenees, to the stomachs of whales, to soil on the farms where our food is grown. We know that animals and humans are ingesting microplastic particles, via the food we eat and the water we drink, but we don’t yet know all of the implications.
The highly visible problem of plastic pollution in our waterways and oceans has drawn worldwide attention. We are distressed by images of marine mammals washing up dead on our shores, their stomachs clogged with plastic. There are plastic “gyres” in all of the world’s major oceans, including the infamous Great Pacific Garbage Patch (GPGP)10, an accumulation zone of plastics in the Pacific Ocean between California and Hawai’i that is estimated to contain at least 79,000 tons of plastic floating in an area of 1.6M km. Plastics have been found deep in ocean waters, too, including in the Mariana Trench, the deepest known part of the world’s oceans.
Much of the research about plastic pollution has focused on the marine environment. But is there a reason to worry about plastics in soil, too? Recent research indicates that the answer is “Yes.”12 Microplastics can make their way into soil through flooding, littering and by being deposited through the atmosphere (e.g., by wind).13 They can also be deposited on soil through compost applications or through sewage sludge, which is sometimes used as a fertilizer on farmland.14 A recent study indicates that microplastics affect the ability of soil to hold water, and have other impacts on soil structure.
The Problems with Plastic Production
It’s not just a matter of where plastics end up that affects the environment. A recent report indicates that plastic contributes to greenhouse gas emissions at every stage of its lifecycle, from production to refining to the ways it is managed as a waste product.
Extraction of the fossil fuels that are the building blocks of plastic is an environmentally depleting process, whether for petroleum-based plastics or those derived from natural gas. As the hydraulic fracturing (fracking) industry has boomed, so has the availability of cheap plastic, thanks to a fracking byproduct, called ethane, used extensively in plastic production. The manufacturing process that is required to turn that ethane into plastic is energy-intensive and pollutes the air, soil and water of nearby communities — communities already suffering from the environmental and public health impacts of natural gas fracking.
While we know that plastics have carbon-intense life cycles, we do not yet have a full understanding of how their production, in addition to their use and disposal, is contributing to the global climate crisis. We may be on the verge of getting better information, thanks to researchers from the University of California at Santa Barbara. They have conducted what they believe is the first global assessment of the life cycle of greenhouse gas emissions from plastics. The researchers also explore four strategies for reducing the carbon footprint of plastic.
POLYSTYRENE IS BAD FOR HUMAN HEALTH
Polystyrene is made from a petroleum-based chemical called styrene. Some US government agencies, including the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR), the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS), and the National Toxicology Program (NTP), recognize the health risks of styrene exposure, including neurological effects and cancers, including leukemia. One of the main ways people come into contact with styrene is through “food contamination,” which happens when styrene leaches out of the container into the food that it holds. The amount that can leach out depends on a variety of factors, including surface area of the container, the temperature of the food and the fat content of the food.2223 This leaching is the reason to avoid polystyrene coffee cup lids — the combination of hot liquid and the mouth being directly applied makes one particularly vulnerable.
Tip: In general, heating food in plastic should be avoided. Many studies have shown that plastic containers leach into the food and liquid they hold, and it gets worse as time and temperature increase.
POLYSTYRENE IS BAD FOR THE ENVIRONMENT
Polystyrene, especially in its puffed form, is bad for the environment. Due to its being lightweight, recycling polystyrene in traditional systems is difficult, expensive and in some cases impossible, which makes it even more likely to end up as litter or in landfills. And, in its puffed (i.e., expanded) form, it takes up a lot of space in those landfills, more so than other plastics. Many municipalities have deemed recycling polystyrene too challenging and costly to make it worth their while. The good news? Polystyrene use is on the wane, and some coffee companies — including Dunkin Donuts for its cups and Starbucks for their lids— have phased them out.
Harmful Chemicals in Food Packaging
Chemicals that could be harmful to our health are in most types of food packaging, including plastic, metal and fiber. These chemicals can be harmful to adults in a number of ways, but they are especially concerning when it comes to the health of our children. You need only look at the list of chemicals in the image below to see just how many of these “chemicals of concern” are in our food packaging.
While there are literally hundreds of these harmful unregulated chemicals in food packaging, here we focus on a handful of the most well-known, and those that are added to packaging materials for a “functional” reason — for example, to create a liquid barrier or to make plastic less breakable.