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Can I avoid selling produce in plastics?

 
Posts: 14
Location: Louisburg, NC 7
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Hello and thank you for taking the time to read my question.

I am in my first year of market gardening for my community market and I want to avoid using plastics, as it is a concern for many health conscious individuals. I was thinking of some alternatives and I wanted to get some experienced opinions on whether this is feasible or not. I would also love to know any other advice you may have or places to purchase ideal items.

I sold Arugula last week and it was a big hit as it had so much flavor, and tasted like nothing I had ever bought from any store. I was selling it in Relockable Freezer/Storage Bags, they were $1.29 for 25 quart size had a picture of raspberry's, so I am assuming they are food safe. Distributed by Rosewood Plastic Group Inc, made in china, and I couldn't find a number for the plastic type on it.

I am in need of idea of what to store and sell micro greens.

My ideas to avoid plastic usage:
Make a leaf bundle in hemp or burlap twine and keep the lettuce in a cooler.
Place the lettuce in paper sacks instead. Will they dry out?

Where might I buy safe plastics to sell food in? What other ways are there?

Has anyone else tried this? Thank you for any input.
 
Posts: 28
Location: Utah
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There is a wide variety of wax paper bags and wrapping. Most Restaurant supplies carry the or even sams club.

 
Posts: 148
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This topic has been eating at me lately too. The other day I envisioned making cedar wooden boxes with lids that fit tight for storing kale in the fridge, probably won't work but I sure want alternatives to plastics!
 
Mark Phillips
Posts: 28
Location: Utah
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Well wax was used long before plastic in many different ways. I can see your cedar box working out if you lined it with bees wax and used it in a cool box or root cellar type storage.

Freezing probably would not bode well with your box however a cooler / ice box for veggies and I think it would work nicely.

If your in a dry climate you may also peek at (( https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=483239238374905&set=a.278510448847786.75417.225913057440859&type=1&theater )) Solar refrigerator. This stays dry in the inside so humidity wouldn't be a issue regarding the wood.

Might I also suggest up cycling some glass bottles. After a bit of practice with a bottle cutter you can make some handy storage jars. Albeit this would be for home not commercial use like LaLena needs but similar to the store bough storage jars that snap closed with a rubber seal. I think this would be ideal for Kale especially and if you used a magnum sized wine bottle I am quite sure you could store a nice amount.

Your welcome to peek at a variety of outside the box idea on my page, maybe something new will pop into your imagination lol

https://www.facebook.com/pages/Thinking-Outside-The-Box/330603263682894?ref=hl

Good luck
 
Andrea Gorham
Posts: 14
Location: Louisburg, NC 7
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Thanks Mark I didn't even think of wax paper, what a great idea. I really do need to give my local Restaurant Supply store another shot, last time I called looking for a hanging scale, they didn't have one and I ended up buying a little table scale from Bed, Bath, and Beyond that is difficult to read. I've learned to work with it.

LaLena, glass containers? I wonder how kale and other lettuces would hold up in a wax bag.
 
pollinator
Posts: 1459
Location: Midlands, South Carolina Zone 7b/8a
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I too have wondered about this. Has anyone heard of biodegradable cellophane? Possibly vegetable based?
 
Mark Phillips
Posts: 28
Location: Utah
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LOL. Sorry I messed up the names.

I used wax paper bags for many storage items in the past (5 Children) moist or patted dry items do well items with heavy water content tend to soak the interior and make them fall apart.

If you are vending soil raised I don't see any problem at all however if your plucking from a aquaponics or hydro ponics setup you would want to pat the leaves dry thoroughly.

If your restaurant supply doesn't carry them I know Sams does (or did) if all else fails here is a link

http://www.greenstaurant.com/pages/storagebags.html
 
Andrea Gorham
Posts: 14
Location: Louisburg, NC 7
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Thanks again for the link Mark, so if they fail me again I'll have a few other options to investigate. I am growing in soil and hope to get my hands on some wax paper bags tomorrow in time for the market this Saturday. This will work great for my micro greens too.
 
steward
Posts: 2482
Location: FL
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I've given this topic some thought as well. The standard carry away sack has become the plastic t-shirt bag as they are cheap, printable, and often hold up long enough to get your purchase home. I've collected so many walmart bags I've been able to insulate the ceiling over the living room. Disposability of single use bags has become the norm. Environmental concerns have become unimportant. Reusable shopping bags have appeared, but usage is limited. There is also the need to wash them from time to time, and no self respecting metrosexual would be caught dead performing such a menial task in the digital age. Changing the paradigm from disposability to reusability is not likely to happen on a national scale in the foreseeable future. The solution must be local.

I've considered wood boxes, but these are bulky and can grow mold if not fully dried after being used.

I've thought about buckets. Those 5 gallon Homer Buckets are less than 3 bucks, are easy to clean and dry, and have a handle. In practice, hauling around a couple of pails while shopping at a farmers market is clumsy and awkward. The amount of plastic that goes into 1 of these pails could be used to produced a couple hundred of those t-shirt bags.

How about net or mesh bags?
These are not particularly expensive, are lightweight, store in a small space, are washable, and can expand to fit larger items. I think this one has potential. Finding the right material gives them even more promise.

 
steward
Posts: 7926
Location: Currently in Lake Stevens, WA. Home in Spokane
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The disposable plastic bags are becoming extinct here in Seattle. A new city ordinance now prohibits stores from giving them away with purchases. If you want one, you must pay extra for it. Minimum charge (even for a paper bag) is 5¢. I was buying something the other day at 7-11, and the guy ahead of me got a 16oz beer, and asked for a bag...they told him 40¢, and he hit the roof!

 
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You might give people who bring their own bags a discount.
Were I come from lettuce is usually wrapped in old newspaper it might even work for rocket.
 
Posts: 416
Location: Otago, New Zealand
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Jeanine Gurley wrote:I too have wondered about this. Has anyone heard of biodegradable cellophane? Possibly vegetable based?



Cellophane is biodegradable (it's a manufactured form of cellulose). You might want to check how it is made though, in terms of resource use and pollution.
 
Mark Phillips
Posts: 28
Location: Utah
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http://www.ehow.com/facts_7769355_impact-cellophane-evironment.html

The Impact of Cellophane on the Evironment
By Lexa W. Lee, eHow Contributor

Cellophane, a transparent cellulose-based material, is biodegradable and has no significant impact on the environment. However, its manufacturing process can contribute to the formation of ground level ozone, which is considered an air pollutant.

Read more: The Impact of Cellophane on the Evironment | eHow.com http://www.ehow.com/facts_7769355_impact-cellophane-evironment.html#ixzz271QwPKsz
 
Andrea Gorham
Posts: 14
Location: Louisburg, NC 7
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How frustrating the only restaurant supply store in my area doesn't carry anything I need! They referred me to Dart Janitorial & Paper Products and they are currently out of wax paper bags until Monday. I am not a Sams Club Member and the nearest one is 20 miles away anyway.

Why don't paper sacks work? Is it that they are going to get soggy? The lettuce will still wilt?
I did an experiment with bundling some leaves in twine last evening and they wilted within hours.
Wax paper is at any typical grocery store I think. Maybe I can roll the lettuce in wax paper and bundle it with twine? Maybe this would increase the shelf life. Has anyone tried this?

Ken I have a customer that uses mesh bags that fit inside themselves to be the size of a tennis ball. They are in the shapes of different vegetables, she carries them in an unfolded bag. It takes her a long time to get her bags ready and I think they are made of polyester, which I don't think is a very good material but for short term food transport they work well. Another has bags that she has knitted herself that she has slung over her shoulder. They are very liquid in that they form to whatever is put in it.
 
LaLena MaeRee
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Wow so many ideas to try! I currently use some glass storage containers with rubber/plastic lids. The brand is rubbermaid so we hoped they are more rubber than plastic but we know that is a pretty big wish. They work ok if I actually remember to get the kale into them as soon as it is mostly dry from being wrapped in paper towels. We reuse the paper towels several times before sending them to compost, we still feel guilty about their use though. We use glass jars and bottles to store tons of other stuff, I have been tempted to stuff one full of kale. I have mesh bags too for the market, and a reusable shopping bag from seattle pike place, but I think it is actually made with plastic. It makes me SO happy to hear Seattle is phasing out plastic bags, I hope it spreads over here to Whidbey. Safeway employees are rude when we ask for paper instead of plastic. Sometimes they even ignore you and slam your groceries into plastic anyway, bastards! For anyone else who lives here, Market Place just brought in a whole lot more organic and non-gmo verified products, we just need to push for the produce! I wish the farmer's market ran year round.
 
Posts: 7472
Location: Ozarks zone 7 alluvial,black,deep clay/loam with few rocks, wonderful creek bottom!
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Selling unwilted greens with no plastic is difficult. Storing them once home is easier. After washing greens from the garden I drain and wrap in a clean muslin kitchen towel...the kind everyone used to use to dry dishes with... and then I store the greens in the bottom of the refrigerator but for only two or three days at a time.
..simple muslin bags work great also..easy to make but I am pretty sure I have heard of them sold by the dozen. If you could get your customers to return them when they buy more greens that might work.
We have a really good thrift store here so I can buy linens and muslins to cut and hem for more towel when I need them. I also keep a big crock full of what we call kitchen rags that can do anything that a paper towel can do and more...clean, cut up cotton t shirts work best for us. I've never used paper towels so there was no adjustment.
When I did the market locally almost everyone brought canvas bags for their purchases or great baskets (we are a craft community) but getting your greens home fresh was always a challange and most sold in big ziplocks.

edited to add...I think any wax on paper is going to be derived from petroleum....and any cotton cloth, unless organically grown fibers is grown drenched in chemicals...the bast fibers, flax, hemp, rami etc can be grown easily with no pesticides but that does not mean the soil they were grown in is pesticide free... and all are mildew resistant so if you were using them as bags for food that would be a plus...especially if it was material that had been washed repeatedly and had no dyes..
 
Rose Pinder
Posts: 416
Location: Otago, New Zealand
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Andrea Gorham wrote:
I did an experiment with bundling some leaves in twine last evening and they wilted within hours..



Where/how did you store them? People I know who sell soft greens at the Farmers Market do some of all of the following:

minimise the time between picking and selling

store the bundled greens in a cool place (eg a chilly bin), both before and during the market

stand the bundled greens with their feet in a bit of water. Think a wide, shallow container.


Selling soft greens at a Farmers Market is work, but that reduces if you get good systems set up.
 
LaLena MaeRee
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Judith are you looking to adopt a couple mid 20's big kids? Everytime I read one of your comments I wanna move to your place! Crafting community sounds awesome. I was also worried about the petrol in wax papers, and chemicals in cottons....is it safe to say we should all just be nudists in a rain forest somewhere foraging all day? That actually doesn't sound half bad...
 
Judith Browning
Posts: 7472
Location: Ozarks zone 7 alluvial,black,deep clay/loam with few rocks, wonderful creek bottom!
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LaLena, I decided to delete my post....I think I was too far off topic for this thread.
 
Posts: 111
Location: Vermont
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If you need to use plastic bags at least now there are compostable and biodegradable bags. The produce bags are very thin and break down really well. when discarded improperly by people I've found they break down even better because sunlight does a number on them. I know because I've tested them. If you leave them out in the atmosphere for a month or two they disintegrate when you try and pick them up and just turn to dust. They break down in the heat of compost too. If you leave them in the box until you need them they last a good long time. We've had a box of the Tug and Totes on top of our refrigerator for three years now and they're still good. If you want more information look here: http://www.dirtworks.net/Biodegradeable-Plastic-Bags/Biodegradable-Produce-Bags.html
 
Rose Pinder
Posts: 416
Location: Otago, New Zealand
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Plastic that breaks down in the sun is not biodegradable. It simply breaks down into small enough pieces that humans can't see it very well. That's lots of small bits of plastic instead one big bit.

Oxo Biodegradable (OXO) plastic is polyolefin plastic to which has been added amounts of metal salts. These catalyze the natural degradation process to speed it up so that the OXO plastic will degrade resulting in microfragments of plastic and metals which will remain in the environment but will not be seen as a visual contaminant. The degradation process is shortened from hundreds of years to years and/or months for degradation and thereafter biodegradation depends on the micro-organisms in the environment.



While OXO plastics, especially in the form of plastic bags, are promoted and now widely used as a "environmentally sound" solution of the plastic littering problem, there are several environmental issues related to their use.[2] Metal salts used as the catalyst for OXO degradation carry risks of environmental pollution with heavy metals. A study by the Biodegradable Products Institute found significant amounts of lead and cobalt in their "EcoSafe" OXO bags samples.[3] In case of lead, the amounts found had drastically exceeded the allowed concentrations: "The lead level are 4 times higher than those allowed by ASTM D6400-99 in the US and 12 times higher than the concentrations permitted in Europe (EN 13432) and Japan (GreenPLA)"[3]

Other often discussed issues are the potential toxicity of the OXO plastic breakdown residue, loss of degradable properties in landfills, the ability of plastic fragments to survive long enough to present danger to wildlife and discouragement of planned plastic bag phase-outs. Although OXO plastic are considered recyclable, the additives could produce unpredictable quality of the secondary product, and there are few independent studies which describe their recycling efficiency and properties.[4] It's also been said that the "biodegradable" public image is discouraging people from recycling, which leads to increased littering and the loss of the stored energetic potential (and therefore the value) of the material, which could be retrieved by recycling and other means of use.[4]




http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Oxo_Biodegradable


John, in your test, did you expose them to sun before the compost, or put them straight in? I think it's likely that a well functioning compost would deal with the micro plastic better than other environments, but note that the wiki article says it's no good in industrial composters.

I wonder if Paul Stamets has done any work with fungi and plastics.

There are no easy answers
 
Paula Edwards
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If I want to keep greens in the fridge I simply put them into a damp towel. On the market you could spray them with water.
To avoid plastic I have got the following idea: give simply each customer who brings his own container a discount of 20 cents.
Write a nice sign. You could pack greens simply in paper and tell the people that they must take it out when they come home.
I imagine that selling greens on the market is very difficult, especially in summer.
We have a food coop here and for every bag you must pay 5 cents. For honey and stuff you must bring your own jar. It works fantastically.
When I have too many jars I just bring them in for people who forgot their jars. And so do people with egg cartons.
 
John Polk
steward
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Location: Currently in Lake Stevens, WA. Home in Spokane
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I know a guy who sells eggs. There is a big sign on his booth which states "RECYCLE YOUR EGG CARTONS HERE"
He gives a price break for those who bring back their cartons.
Many people who do not buy from him, bring him cartons every week.

Obviously, at first he received many styrofoam cartons. With mostly repeat customers, he now gets almost all paperboard cartons. He began using the styrofoam ones for starting seedlings. When he had so many foam ones he didn't know what to do with them, he ran them through a shredder, and used them for insulation in his new, expanded hen house.



 
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