04/12/2010 05:12 am ET Updated May 25, 2011

Plastic Packaging Is Good for the Earth? A Flawed Assumption

Plastic-wrapped fruits, says James McWilliams in the New York Times' Freakonomics blog, are a good thing, not just for ensuring my son eats his apple (or orange) each day but also for landfills. McWilliams' argument is this: Just a little eensy bit of plastic packaging -- in the case of cucumbers, just 1.5 grams! -- extends the shelf life of a fruit or vegetable significantly.

His post infers, if it does not quite make, a fallacy that is common in many set pieces on environmentalism: That energy is expended through failure to conserve. This argument, much like the one claiming eating peanut butter uses less energy than hamburgers, is not quite true.

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