Going nuts over packaging

PUBLISHED: 11:51 29 June 2006 | UPDATED: 10:23 06 May 2010

SOME time ago, when I worked for another newspaper, I had the misfortune of offending the WI. They seemed to think that my grammatical improvements had ruined a report of a meeting they d held and promptly sent a terse letter - on headed notepaper no less

SOME time ago, when I worked for another newspaper, I had the misfortune of offending the WI.

They seemed to think that my grammatical improvements had ruined a report of a meeting they'd held and promptly sent a terse letter - on headed notepaper no less - to the editor.

I wasn't exactly in fear for my life - I mean, they're not the mafia or anything - but while most of my friends seemed to think it was funny to have managed to annoy the mild-mannered Women's Institute, I was a bit more wary.

Tony Blair will agree with me, I'm sure, that the WI are increasingly a force to be reckoned with.

I'm sure the memory of being slow hand clapped and heckled at the WI's annual conference in 2000 still haunts him.

I bet he thought he'd pop along there and regale the assembled Laura Ashley print-wearing ladies with his fancy political talk and leave them breathless with admiration.

Instead they gave him a right old hard time until the chairman had to ask them to listen quietly.

Some of the members even walked out, saying the speech was too long and too overtly political.

Last week the WI were at it again, and this time all power to them, I say.

The organisation is threatening to boycott supermarkets unless they cut down on unnecessary food packaging.

It has devised a list of 10 examples of fruit and vegetables it considers to be unnecessarily packaged.

These include veg that we're used to seeing wrapped like mushrooms and more obscure ones like - wait for it - a coconut.

Yes, apparently the big hard, impossible-to-crack brown shell around a coconut is not enough for supermarket chain Morrisons - it felt the need to shrink-wrap it in plastic.

As part of its campaign to cut down on domestic waste, the WI is encouraging members to send letters to supermarkets warning they will lose their custom if they don't change their habits.

I'm sure many of us have bought fruit and veg from the supermarket and been astounded at the amount of packaging it comes in, from plastic boxes to foam trays to endless plastic bags, so well done to the WI for making a stand.

It has about 215,000 members and if even half of these write to the big supermarket chains, that's a lot of letters.

The industry denies it is guilty of excessive packaging but I really fail to see how it can defend itself.

All the fruit and veg which sits merrily unpackaged manages to make it home to us without any problems, which surely proves there is no need to put pears on a foam tray and shrink-wrap them in clingfilm, as done by Sainsbury's.

Packaging just panders to the misguided notion that nicely wrapped equals better quality and it's about time supermarkets got with the 21st century and realised that more packaging just damages the environment.

And anyone who thinks the WI just made cakes and held fayres should think again...

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