Almost always when I’m at the store I buy a cucumber or two, but why are the cucumbers wrapped in plastic? This seems like an enormous waste of plastic that is bad for the environment. But as it turns out, wrapping cucumbers in plastic might not be so bad after all. Keep reading to find out why there is plastic on cucumbers.
We’ve all been there, standing in the grocery store with a cucumber that is plastic wrapped and wondered how stupid the world can be. The is a skin on cucumbers so why the hell do they insist on wrapping them in plastic? I decided to look into this and this is why there is plastic on cucumbers.
It prevents the cucumber from drying out.
Without the plastic wrapping on the cucumber, it will dry out faster. In 14 days with a plastic wrapper, a cucumber loses 1,5% of its weight. Without the plastic, it will lose 3,5% in only three days. So that is one of the reasons for wrapping them in plastic. But there’s more.
It prevents physical damage
Cucumbers get bumped around both during transportation and by handling in the store, the plastic wrapping prevents some of these damages meaning less food waste. Of course, if the handling was done in a better way without allowing them to get bruised up you wouldn’t need the plastic. The reason is of course speed, by sorting, wrapping and handling them as quickly as possible the distribution costs less, which in the long run gives you a cheaper cucumber.
It reduces cold injury on the cucumber
You know how sometimes a cucumber kept in the fridge get all soggy and soft. That’s cold injury, one of the most common reasons for spoilage of cucumbers. The plastic helps to prevent this. Again with less food waste as a result.
Keeps the cucumber clean
In the production and harvesting hygiene is a big thing, not so for all the consumers in the store, of course, I don’t mean you, only those other consumers with dirty hands who “forgot” to wash their hands after using the bathroom. The plastic will keep those germs on the plastic instead of the cucumber.
It will last longer
A cucumber without plastic wrapping will last for 3-7 days before going bad. One wrapped in plastic will last for 14 days. This means fewer transports, less waste and therefore a smaller impact on the environment. And the research for plastics is ongoing. There have been tests with breathable membrane plastics that will make a cucumber last for up to 40 days.
What about other materials?
You could pack the cucumber in other material like foil, paper or glass but all of these are way less effective both in protection and transport and production costs. Glass, for instance, feels good and natural and traditional but imagine the transport costs for glass jars in comparison for plastics? The difference is massive.
But take care of the plastic
Now, this is all fine but if the plastic ends up in our oceans it will of course still be bad for the environment. So when you buy your next plastic wrapped cucumber make sure to throw away the plastic where it should be. Check with your local authorities on where that is.
And eat the whole cucumber
No matter how you feel about the plastic after these facts the best way to be friendly to the environment is to only buy as many cucumbers as you will consume and actually eat them all. Try one of my recipes where the cucumber is the main ingredient. I have this great cucumber quick pickles, marinated cucumber with mint and a great cucumber side salad that will make you use the whole thing.
More reading on plastic-wrapped cucumbers
If you’re interested in reading more about the plastic on cucumbers and other packagings you can check out this article in The Independent. If that is not enough you can read more at the British Cucumber Growers.
Still more? Ok, you can read the book Why shrink wrap a cucumber by Steven Aldridge and Laurel Miller, this book is not only about cucumber but about environmental packaging in general.