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326: Plastic-free aisles in supermarkets

Problem:

According to the Checking Out on Plastics report by the Environmental Investigation Agency and Greenpeace UK, .Britain’s top 10 supermarkets are flooding the planet with 810,000 tonnes of single-use plastic every year, according to a major new report.

This is in addition to over 1.1 billion single-use bags, 958 million “bags for life” and 1.2 billion plastic bags for fruit and vegetables, which supermarkets produce annually. Seven of those supermarkets are putting into circulation around 59 billion pieces of plastic packaging a year – roughly 2,000 pieces for every household in the country.

Solution:

In 2016, Siân Sutherland and Frederikke Magnussen launched A Plastic Planet, coming up with one solution of a plastic free aisle in supermarkets. In February 2018, the world’s first plastic-free supermarket aisle opened in Amsterdam. Ekoplaza, a Dutch chain, where around 700 products at its pilot launch and everything was packaged, just in glass, metal, cardboard or a compostable, plant-based biofilm.

Sutherland and her team at A Plastic Planet have been working collaboratively with industry, retailers, Governments, legislators and the UN to accelerate the pace of change at all levels creating the Plastic Free Trust Mark for brands, with over 1,000 already certified, and the Industry Commitment Mark ‘Working Towards Plastic Free’.

A Plastic Planet also became a key founding partner in the Plastic Health Coalition, bringing together the world’s scientists, doctors to irrefutably prove the impact of plastic toxicity on human health.

In January 2019, Thornton’s Budgens supermarket in Belsize Park, North London introduced dedicated plastic-free zones featuring more than 1,700 plastic-free products. Customers can pick up everything from fresh fruit and vegetables, bread and cheese, to wild game meat, including squirrel and wild boar, all free from plastic packaging. Plastic-free materials are being used instead, including beech wood nets, pulp, paper, metal, glass, cellulose and carton board.

In June 2020, A Plastic Planet and packaging companies Reelbrands and Transcend Packaging came together to develop the world’s first compostable, plastic-free PPE (personal protective equipment) in clear plastic-free REELshield visors in a bid to assist the fight against coronavirus polluting the environment.

From June 2020, collaborating with Loop, a “zero waste shopping platform”, Tesco, the British supermarket chain is trialling a scheme in the UK where online shoppers will get products in reusable packaging. The trial covers 150 items, which will be delivered in reusable containers for which consumers pay a deposit.

After using the products, which include Heinz Tomato Ketchup, Persil washing liquid, Coca-Cola, and Danone yoghurt, customers ask for DPD (Dynamic Parcel Distribution) to come and pick up the empties in the bag.

Based at the European Marine Science Park in Oban Scotland, a team led by Karen Scofield Seal, at Oceanium Ltd is investigating the potential of seaweed to provide a long-term response to the demand for marine-safe packaging as well as sustainably-sourced plant-based food sources. Their solution is a circular life-cycle bio packaging material, Oceanware designed to be disposed of with food waste and ultimately used for compost for soil health or anaerobic digestion for energy.

What you can do: Be conscious of your ‘plastic footprint’ and shop at Ekoplaza if possible 

Discover Solution 327: Bricks from cigarette butts

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