In January, a Redditor took to the r/Anticonsumption subreddit to call out a new low for wasteful packaging at their local grocery store. The culprit? Individually plastic-wrapped potatoes from Kroger.
The unnecessary use of disposable plastic has been a hot topic recently. In 2022, the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development said that plastic pollution, litter, and landfill use were reaching all-time highs.
“The world is producing twice as much plastic waste as two decades ago, with the bulk of it ending up in landfill, incinerated or leaking into the environment, and only 9% successfully recycled,” the group reported. “Twenty-two percent [of it] evades waste management systems and goes into uncontrolled dumpsites, is burned in open pits, or ends up in terrestrial or aquatic environments.”
Much of this is disposable plastic food packaging.
The Redditor illustrates a clear example of this problem with a photo of potatoes for sale in a bin — each individually shrink-wrapped and labeled. This type of packaging significantly increases the amount of plastic waste, from a single vegetable bag to potentially dozens of wrappers.
“I don’t understand why potatoes can’t just be sold as-is? Why is the plastic necessary?” the Redditor asks.
Commenters offered an explanation that only makes matters worse.
“They’re wrapped because they’re meant to be microwaved in the plastic to steam them,” says the top comment.
To that, the original poster replies, “Mmm yummy microplastics,” referring to the fact that microwaving food in plastic can cause particles and chemicals from the plastic to soak into the food and be eaten, as Harvard Health Publishing reported in 2019. As that report shows, some of these chemicals have been linked to health problems such as reduced fertility and metabolic disorders.
Even if you’re not cooking your potatoes in their wrappers, excessive packaging is a problem. It creates more work for the buyer, costs more during waste disposal, and is allegedly used as an excuse to raise prices.
As one commenter points out, “Five dollars for four potatoes is the bigger crime.”
Commenters agree that even if you want to microwave your potatoes, the plastic is completely unnecessary.
“But you don’t need to wrap them in plastic. A slightly damp paper towel is fine,” says one.
Another adds, “Or just wet the potato and pierce with a fork or knife.”
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