Plastics Improve Quality of Life—and Figs!

Plastics empower safer passage for fresh figs from California to New York—much to this editor’s delight.

If you are a fan of fresh figs (as I am) then you may have resigned yourself (as I have) to the fact that when you buy figs in a plastic mesh-style box, the fruit on top may look great, but the figs on the bottom will be mashed, mis-shapen, and quite possibly moldy as a result.

Well, I am resigned to such disappointment no longer, thanks to a more imaginative use of plastics. For the first time since I have been living in New York City (which is all of my adult life), I found a supermarket that stocks fresh figs in thermoformed PET clamshells where each piece of fruit (six to eight) is held snugly in its own separate pocket. No bouncing around, no mashing, no squishing, no leaking of juice to promote mold growth.

Related Stories

I write about plastics every day, but I felt a renewed sense of awe at the many ways plastics make our lives better.

I went looking for the source of the package. The figs I bought were packed by Western Fresh marketing in Madera, Calif. Although I had never seen them before in the New York area, Western Fresh has been shipping figs in pocketed clamshells for many years. They get their fig clamshells from Mid Valley Packaging & Supply Co. (MVP) in Fowler, Calif. MVP is a distributor of packaging manufactured domestically and in countries such as China and Chile. The fig clamshells were made in Thailand. MVP, however, owns the tooling for the clamshells.

Since I separate my household’s kitchen trash for recycling, I can’t help noticing that the fig packs are just one more sign of the greatly enlarged presence of crystal-clear PET packaging in my home life. I like buying berries in PET clamshells instead of boxes, from which the berries tend to spill. I like salad greens in recloseable, rigid PET boxes instead of soft bags. And I particularly like my breakfast orange juice in a PET bottle instead of a coated paperboard carton or milky translucent HDPE jug. Lately, I’ve even begun buying iced tea in a PET bottle, rather than brewing my own (and never having enough on hand).