Packaging is one of my pet peeves. It’s such an easily avoidable nuisance and pollutant, and I shun it at all costs, even if it means putting myself out by moving from store to store during the course of my grocery shopping (though not, admittedly, if the moving entails a lot of petrol, which would defeat the purpose).

I believe this is called pre-cycling: preventing the need for recycling, which in itself requires the use of energy, water, and raw materials.

This morning I received a promotional email from Pick n Pay, telling me about the improvements and investments the company is making and how it impacts me as a consumer (I’ve attached the whole letter below for those who would like to read it).

I’ve long bemoaned the fact the Pick n Pay (like many large retailers) uses so much unnecessary packaging on their fresh produce, so I took this as a sign to stop moaning and offer some constructive feedback. Here is my response:

Subject: Feedback: produce packaging


Date: 05 October 2011 12:19:44 PM SAST


Today I received an inspiring email update from CEO Nick Badminton, including the following paragraph:

“We are consistently recognised as one of South Africa’s greenest companies. Some of the initiatives we’ve put in place include reducing energy consumption, reducing water usage and responsible waste disposal; in fact, we’re aiming for zero waste to landfill.”

As a committed green consumer, I am delighted to hear this. There is one point, however, that I would like to raise. Recycling is important, but is sometimes the lesser of two evils. Products which are sold with unnecessary packaging still entail energy consumption, water usage and waste disposal to recycling plants, and then more energy consumption and water usage to proceed with the recycling process. So while zero per cent of the packaging may end up in a landfill, I still avoid these products at your stores. 

Here’s a confession: I buy very little fresh produce from PnP, even from your commendable organic range. The reason? The packaging.

I make a point of stopping off at Food Lover’s Market or a local grocery store on the way home, and frequently fill 2-3 large (reusable) bags a week with fresh fruit and veggies. At these stores the produce is weighed at the cashier’s till, so it goes straight from my trolly into my bags. There is no polystyrene, plastic, cling-film, or even printed labels to have to worry about producing, or recycling. They don’t even insist on those infuriating thin plastic bags to hold groups of the same produce – they are more than happy to weigh a few kilos each of loose items. 

As a customer, I really appreciate that, and if your stores did this, I’d probably spend a good few hundred rand a month extra buying my fresh produce at PnP. 

Well done for all the positive effort you put into sustainable shopping, community support projects, and customer care. I went to the trouble of writing this letter because I believe that you care about these issues, and will seriously consider what I have to say. I look forward to your response.

Warm regards,
A (nearly completely) satisfied customer.

A call to action (though in a polite, non-obligatory sort of way)

Readers and fellow bloggers, if this issue is something that you care about, please feel free to adapt or simply copy my letter and send it to

The more positive feedback they receive, the more likely they will be to act on it.