One of my high school friends was famous for the over-packaged lunches that her somewhat eccentric mother used to pack for her. The packaging highlight: bananas swaddled in Saran Wrap and tied with a string.
Fast forward a few decades, and we have the opposite end of the banana spectrum: a supermarket chain HQ’d in Austria, with outlets throughout Central/Eastern Europe and Italy, recently introduced pre-peeled bananas, served up on shrink-wrapped plastic trays.
Admittedly, the banana is not quite as portable as some other fruits. With a peach or a plum, you just have to jettison the pit, or wrap it in a Kleenex if there’s no handy jettison point. With grapes, once you’ve finished the grapes you’ve got the slightly pesky crazy-stem to contend with, but the crazy-stem is not that messy if you have to stick it in your pocket or pocketbook. The ultimate portable fruit is, of course, the apple, with its disposable core that can be left with a clean conscience for the birds.
But once you finish the banana, there’s the peel: slimy and funky, too big to wrap in a Kleenex, nothing you want to forget in your pocket or pocketbook. And nothing you want to leave for the birds. Which won’t take it.
How unpopular are banana peels with wildlife?
One morning a few weeks ago, I was taking our recycle out and noticed that a garbage bag that had been put out the night before had been attacked by rats. The rats apparently hadn’t found much of interest. There was just one pawed/gnawed hole in the side of the trash bag. And streeling out of it was a banana peel. That the rats, initially enticed by the promise of banana, had rejected and left behind.
(Non-urban types are, I’m sure, aghast at the idea of rats, but that’s how cities roll. Which is why we try not to put our trash out until dawn.)
Of course, the Billa solution doesn’t make a banana any more portable by getting rid of the disposal problem. Okay, you no longer have to worry about discarding the peel. Now you have to figure out how to get rid of the plastic wrap and plastic tray. And, based on the picture, this concept doesn’t seem to have much appeal to those who want a single banana – someone heading to the gym, someone brown- bagging to work, someone packing lunch for the kids.
What, precisely, was the problem that Billa was trying to solve here?
Are bananas that time-consuming and difficult to peel that we need a pre-peeled banana as a labor-saving device? Sheesh. You don’t even need a knife or your front teeth to get the thing started.
And in a time when most folks are at least a tiny bit environmentally conscious, who needs all this excess packaging?
Not to mention that fruit peels – banana or other – serve an important function: protecting that inner-goodness from turning brown and rotting.
And not to mention that, let us face it, there’s something vaguely obscene about these suckers when stripped of their protective covering. (Vague obscenity being something that bananas, of course, have a long running start on.)
This – the pre-peeled, ultra-packaged banana - from a company that brands itself as a “common sense” supermarket.
Anyway, it’s no surprise that environmental groups, including Greenpeace, have been all over this bad idea. And Billa has decided that it wasn’t the smartest thing they’ve ever done
The supermarket has since apologized, according to the Austrian Independent, saying the "one off" mistake would not happen again. (Source: Huffington Post)
Billa isn’t the only one to dabble in fruit packaging, of course. One Huff Po commenter (handle: River City Slicker) graciously supplied a link to Mott, which offers packages of pre-sliced apples.
I’m sure that 90% of all kids would, for better or worse, prefer to have a nifty little package of pre-sliced apples rather than an apple-apple. And with one of those little mini-bags, there’s greater likelihood that the the kids will eat everything. Rather than take a few bites from the apple and toss it aside.
But unsliced apples have a tremendous benefit: they last a very, very long time in your fridge. In contrast with sliced apples, that start browning around the edges immediately.
Is there some fixative treatment that gets used on peeled fruit to keep them “fresh”? If so, one more unnatural act that we don’t need.
Anyway, I’m glad that Billa came to its common senses and took the peeled packaged bananas off the market.
I’ll take the slight risk of slipping on a banana peel to the larger risk to the environment that comes when we keep adding all sorts of plastic packaging to our already heaping trash dumps. At least my high school friend recycled her Saran Wrap and string.