Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Instant (and Unsanitary) Recycling

These days most of my observations come from contact with my students and the things I see the locals in my neighborhood doing. I guess it's unfortunate that blogging and digital cameras weren't around back when I was traveling all over Tokyo and local cities most weekends during much of my first decade here. Since I'm not a big shopper, a lot of my observation is done while grocery shopping or handling necessary errands in our neighborhood. Recently, there's something I've noticed at the local markets which I'm not so sure is a great idea.

Some time ago, I noticed that recycling bins for Styrofoam food trays were next to the tables for bagging your own groceries. This appeared to be a rather odd place for such a bin, particularly when all the other bins (including one for Styrofoam trays) were outside.

While I was bagging my groceries, I noticed that an older lady next to me was opening up her package of chicken and removing the tray from under it. She used the plastic from the outside of the tray to re-wrap the chicken then tossed the tray in the bin next to the bagging area.

This situation has me a bit torn. On the one hand, I applaud the instant nature of this type of recycling. On the other, I'm rather appalled by the unsanitary nature of it. It's not only a matter of seeing people expose their raw meat and seafood products to an area full of other people (who may be coughing, sneezing, or breathing out all kinds of unsavory things) and possibly allowing juices from those products to drip onto the bagging tables. It's also the fact that you cannot easily remove any raw meat or seafood from its packaging without getting residue from it on your hands. In fact, with chicken and the way it often leaks blood or fluid into its tray, this is pretty much impossible. It's sometimes the case that so much fluid leaks out of packaged chicken that it seeps through the plastic wrap when it's still fully wrapped.

So, you've got people handling their bags, bikes or other parts of the store after touching raw meat or seafood and spreading around some pretty potentially nasty bacteria. Salmonella is especially a risk from chicken juices. Since this system seems mainly set-up to avoid having to collect your trays, wash them, and then take them back later for recycling, it seems mainly to be catering to people's laziness when it comes to recycling rather than serving a greater purpose.


Anonymous said...

Never thought of recycling stuff in the store! Oh, well I'm a vegetarian so I didn't think about the germs involved in stuff like that--but good point.

Shari said...

You're enjoying just one of the many benefits of being a vegetarian...no worries about all sorts of nasty things lurking in your food (well, not the same sorts of nasties - no worries about trichonosis, for instance).

Thanks for your comment. :-)

Shawn said...

In all fairness, out here (US) we still have to worry about germs with our veggies too. Poor Popeye will never be the same...
I can't imagine what would drive me to take my meat out in the store and re-wrap it (somehow) on the spot; my experience reflects yours, in that even when I leave it wrapped, the stuff seems to leak all over my other goods anyway. Usually the stuff that's susceptible to juices, of course.

Shari said...

This is a momentous moment for my blog. The great wombat king himself has posted and made it all the more uber by including Popeye in the comment! ;-)

Thanks a lot. It made my day. :-)

Helen said...

My local grocery store lets us recycle the trays too, but the collection bins are nowhere near the grocery packing place. The bins all say that the trays must be washed and clean before being put in. (They even have pictures for those of us with shaky Japanese.)

Can you maybe complain to the store about this? It sounds extremely unsanitary.

Shari said...

Hi Helen, and thanks for your comment.

The big bin outside the store has signs with pictures and Japanese telling us they have to be washed and clean before depositing them. The ones inside next to the bagging areas have no signs except to indicate they are for trays. I think they are specifically there for that purpose at 2 of the stores I go to.

I could complain but I doubt they'd listent to me, both because I'm a foreigner and a lone voice. I'll just have to re-double my efforts to be sure and wash my hands every time I come home from shopping.

Cass said...

I've been wondering about those dirty trays for a while now. I'd thank you for clearing it up, but now I'll be worrying about obasan's leaving their meat juice everywhere instead :)

Seriously though, I don't enjoy touching raw meat at the best of times, let alone in the middle of a store where I have nowhere to wash my hands. Yuck.

PS - Love your posts about time bandits.

Shari said...

Hi, Cass, and thanks very much for your comment and kind comment.

I dislike touching raw meat as well. About 5 years ago at Costco in Chiba, my husband and I picked up a box of 1000 food handling gloves and I've been using those to deal with raw meat when I have to do more than toss it in a pan or dish. I'm pretty sure I'd be a vegetarian if he could deal with it!

I'm giving your blog a read now, btw. One of the great things about comments is it often leads me to other blogs of interest. :-)