Is the Supermarket of the Future Plastic Free?
Author: Claire Bell
The issue of plastic pollution makes regular headlines, and in a bid to stem the tide of plastic causing damage to marine life and filling up landfills, there are many initiatives around the world aiming to solve the problem - especially that of single-use plastic. Often the focus of campaigns is on the consumer taking action, however a new campaign in the UK is targeting the big supermarkets by asking them to introduce an aisle free of plastic packaging.
The campaign, called A Plastic Free Aisle, is based on the idea that shoppers want options when buying items, such as those that are free of plastic packaging. It is almost impossible to shop in a regular supermarket without purchasing something wrapped in disposable plastic. Dedicated shoppers will travel far and wide to buy in bulk speciality stores using their own containers but this is not a realistic option for many.
One UK shopper named Pip pointed out that “we have a lot of choice about what kinds of foods we buy, whether it’s gluten-free, fat-free, sugar-free, but we have much less choice about how we buy, what it comes in. It’s virtually impossible to buy all of your food without some kind of plastic packaging.”
A Plastic Free Aisle is asking supermarkets to stock an aisle with only biodegradable packaging, emphasising that this is a very achievable goal as lots of packaging alternatives to plastic already exist. The UK’s big supermarkets Tesco, Sainsbury’s and Waitrose are currently considering the idea.
Industry often defends the use of plastics without fully acknowledging the environmental impacts, or the existence of viable alternatives. It is hoped that with increasing pressure to use alternatives to plastic, and a growing urgency globally to combat plastic pollution, it will be futile to continue to defend its use.
Last year, Germany’s first zero waste grocery store opened in Berlin, Original Unverpackt (Original Unpackaged). All its products either have no packaging or customers bring their own refillable containers which are filled from the store's bulk dispensers. Similar stores have opened up in countries such as France and Australia, among others. These stores mostly stock unbranded or organic goods which tend to be more expensive. The great thing about the A Plastic Free Aisle campaign is that it targets everyday items without the plastic.
- Write to your supermarket asking them to stock items without plastic packaging.
- When shopping, be mindful of the packaging when selecting an item. Buying in bulk will mean less packaging. Avoid individually wrapped items.
- Buy fruit and vegetables loose whenever possible, avoid those wrapped in plastic
- Try Beeswax Wraps at home, an alternative to cling wrap, or sandwich bags. You can make your own or purchase online.