The Clerk in the Country

Thursday 13th August 2020

Solving the struggle to open a plastic bag

One of the first crops to be combined is oil seed rape.  April’s cheery fields of bright yellow flowers are by now an impenetrable jungle of thick stems bearing pods of seeds; a challenge for the combine harvester which has to have an extra blade added at one side to help it slice through the tangled plants.  The seeds, small, black, hard and oily, if spilled ono the concrete floor of the store, can provide a summertime skating opportunity for the unwary.

Rape seed oil is naturally high in erucic acid, making it unsuitable for human consumption, but varieties have been bred which can be safely made into cooking oil and margarine.  Varieties high in the acid are grown for fuel or lubrication purposes.  I was surprised to learn that one use is a microscopically thin coating of oil on plastic bags, without which they would be impossible to open.  Strange to think that while one field may end up as loaves of bread, the next could be part of the bags we put them in.