Irritated with Plastic Berry Containers? Give Them Back


plastic strawberry basketHow do you buy berries and cherry tomatoes without plastic? Most small fruits come in those green plastic mesh baskets or increasingly in clear plastic clamshells. If you shop your local farmers market, it’s not a problem. The farmers want their containers back!

Save Plastic, Help a Farmer

This weekend, at my local Temescal Farmers Market, I brought back my cherry container (which happened to be cardboard) as usual to ask the farmer to reuse. I’ve always thought the farmers were making an exception for me and my plastic-free ways. But wandering around the market, I realized I was doing them a favor. Every farmer had a stack of baskets and containers that had been returned to them.

The egg vendor has always taken back his molded pulp egg cartons.

return containers to farmers market

But I noticed the strawberry vendor had a stack of used green baskets collecting behind her stand.

return containers to farmers market

The blueberry vendor told me he doesn’t even give his plastic containers to customers. Instead, he dumps them into a bag — either a paper bag or preferably a customer’s own bag — and only uses the plastic containers to measure out the right amount of berries.

return containers to farmers market

And my own cherry vendor was collecting back her cardboard cherry containers.

return containers to farmers market

It seems the cherry vendor still uses plastic containers as well, and by the time I got to the market, all the cherries in cardboard containers were sold out.

return containers to farmers market

So I just dumped my cherries into the container I’d brought back with me

return containers to farmers market

and added the plastic container to the pile of returns stacked up on the table.

return containers to farmers market

Farmers survive on a tight margin. We can help reduce their costs by returning their containers and keeping packaging out of the landfill.

Supermarkets, on the other hand, have no incentive to take back containers and, I was told, wouldn’t know what to do with them if they did. They don’t generally deal directly with farmers but with distribution companies and don’t have channels for getting containers back into the right hands. The best they would probably do is recycle them (if fruit container recycling is even available in their region), which is far less desirable than reusing perfectly good containers to package more fruit.

My thought? If you don’t have a year-round farmers market and find yourself buying grocery store fruit for part of the year, save up your containers to give to the farmers in the summer. They’ll thank you for it.

Plastic-free fruit containers

I’ve also noticed that increasing farmers are switching to plastic-free containers. A few options are:

1) Molded paper pulp baskets

2) Chipboard cardboard baskets

3) Wood berry baskets

4) Corrugated cardboard baskets like the one my cherry vendor uses. (Unfortunately, I couldn’t find this type of basekt online. The next time I visit the market, I’ll have to ask where they buy them.)

Why not ask your berry vendor to switch to plastic-free packaging? It probably costs more, but they can save money by encouraging customers to bring them back.

Related Post: How to Buy and Store Produce Without Plastic

Beth Terry has been attempting to live plastic-free since 2007 and blogs about her journey at Connect with her on Facebook: MyPlasticfreeLife and Twitter: @PlasticfreeBeth

Main page photo: Evan Mitchell/Flickr


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