Wednesday, February 4th, 2009

Bananas and the Virtues of Plastics

Plastics Banana BagsToo often the image that epitomizes people’s perception of plastics is the errant plastic bag in a tree. We can all agree that it is an eyesore, even if we disagree whether the problem is the product or the people who litter. Either way, however, that image needlessly taints and obscures the many virtues of plastics. I was reminded (with some irony) of just one of those virtues during a recent vacation to Costa Rica.

Costa Rica, in addition to its growing electronics and ecotourism industries, remains one of the largest banana growing and exporting countries in the world. In addition, as recently reported in SPI’s International Trade Update, Costa Rica has also just completed its implementation of the Dominican Republic-Central America-United States Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA-DR). (But I digress … back to bananas!) While touring a banana plantation in Costa Rica, my family saw blue bags hanging over the bananas.  These bags are deliberately placed in the banana trees to protect the fruit from pests and the elements and to optimize the growing conditions. (My four-year old has reminded me that strictly they are banana plants, but agrees that they do look like trees!) The point, of course, is that plastics, among its many beneficial uses, can significantly improve agricultural efficiency. This is one instance in which plastic bags in trees (or plants) is not a bad thing.

And yes I did ask – the blue plastic bags, consistent with Costa Rica’s increasingly environmental outlook, are recycled after use! (Get more facts about plastic bag benefits and recycling from SPI’s Film & Bag Federation.)

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