by Liesl Clark
It’s strawberry season, so what are we to do about the plastic berry basket? You know which berry containers I’m talking about: The plastic mesh variety, pint-size and usually green in color that cherry tomatoes and strawberries come in. They come under the following names: Berry baskets, berry boxes, strawberry baskets, pint berry containers, plastic strawberry baskets, plastic cherry tomato boxes…the list goes on.
It’s not the grocery stores that are packaging the lovely berries. Farmers choose the packaging, but many grocery stores will give feedback to the farmers if their customers just don’t want their fresh produce packaged in plastic berry baskets. The good news is I spent a week looking all over our island for these little buggers and, remarkably, not a single store here, including Safeway, were selling produce in them. Our little island off the coast of Seattle, that used to be the strawberry capital of the world, was plum out of berry baskets.
I only wanted a to photograph a single one. So, I got on Freecycle and posted a “WANTED,” telling everyone I needed one for a food fashion shoot. No one responded, until a close friend of mine emailed me and said she had a single berry basket squirreled away somewhere since she doesn’t like to throw plastic packaging like this away (I’m sure it’s the only one she’s acquired in years) and she passed it on to her son who passed it on to my son at school! It arrived in my hands with only one little break in a corner of the basket. That’s the story behind this little green/blue plastic berry basket that will serve as my model for this mishmash of a mesh basket fashion feature.
Reduce Your Use: Why do we need to surround our beautiful fruits and veggies in plastic? Simply buy your strawberries and cherry tomatoes in cardboard baskets and if your grocery store only carries plastic ones, give them your instant feedback by not purchasing them and get proactive in letting the store know you’ll start buying berries again when they can provide waste-free packaging. It’s strawberry season here on our island (at least in the grocery store it is) and I cannot find a single one that’s plastic-free. All are packaged in clear clamshell packaging, aka styrofoam, and that stuff is a known carcinogen. No strawberries for us until they ripen in our garden or are offered at the Farmer’s Market or our local barter group.
Pass It To A Neighbor: Check to see if your local farmers can reuse berry baskets, if they’re clean. Save them and then pass them along, or collect enough of them to post them on Freecycle and you might find a craft group or teacher who could use them.
Reuse It: Here are 9 ideas to get you reusing the pint berry baskets you might have.
1) Turn them into candy or gift boxes by weaving pretty ribbons through them.
2) Use them as a doll playpen.
3) Let your child’s teddy bear wear one as a space helmet for galactic journeys.
4) Start your cucumber, melon, and other starts in them by lining them with newspaper, adding potting soil and keeping in a sunny warm space. Then transplant the whole thing, basket and all, into the garden. Roots will grow through the plastic mesh and there will be no transplant shock for your seedlings. Remember to retrieve the plastic basket from your garden at the end of the season for reuse.
5) Place them upside down over your seedlings in your garden to protect them from birds.
6) Make an Easter Basket.
7) Line them with paper and use as a container for little things in your everything drawer or child’s playroom.
8) Use one as an earring holder/display.
9) Reuse them for your own berry picking.
Think About It: Plastic food packaging (even BPA-free plastics) have toxins in them. Here’s an easy-to-read review.
Still looking for more reduce, reuse, recycle ideas for your produce baskets? First, visit our post outlining 15 uses for your berry baskets, then check out our Trash Backwards app where you can type in any item and get a reuse idea along with inspirations to reduce and recycle.
Do you have a reuse idea? Post it here in our comments for others to read and we’ll send you 4 reusable cloth bags to take grocery shopping or use as a library book bag, or for the farmer’s market. Simply share your own ideas for reusing these little pint baskets or tips for reducing our use of them in the first place, and you’ll be eligible to win our bags. The bags are an assortment, gently used, but have a long life of reuse still in ‘em.