'Nude' Shopping Increases Vegetable Sales for New Zealand Markets
Supermarkets around the world should be commended for banning plastic bags, but there's another single-use foe on the environmental radar: produce packaging.
For eco-conscious shoppers, one of the most frustrating things about the grocery store is seeing things like a lone potato spud shrink-wrapped in plastic.
That's why in New Zealand, a group New World supermarkets has ditched plastic wrap for nearly all of their fruits and vegetables as part of a "food in the nude" project—and seeing stunning sales as a result, NZ Herald reported.
After the concept was introduced at a New World store in Bishopdale, Christchurch, "we noticed sales of spring onions, for example, had increased by 300 percent," owner Nigel Bond told NZ Herald.
"There may have been other factors at play but we noticed similar increases in other vegetable varieties like silver beet and radishes," he noted.
Bond said he and his store manager Gary May devised the idea two years ago after noticing an increasing amount of fresh produce coming in plastic wrap. "We thought this was crazy and vowed and declared to do something about it," he said.
Bond decided to visit Whole Foods supermarkets in the U.S. and took notes about what they were doing with fruits and veggies. Although it's standard for many American grocers to have refrigerated displays and misting systems to keep foods fresh, that wasn't the case for New World stores.
Bond then installed his own refrigerated shelves and misters at his store in New Zealand. He also spoke to growers and suppliers about the plastic-free switch, and most were happy to provide unwrapped fruits and vegetables.
Although some of the produce such as berries, grapes and some tomatoes still comes in plastic containers, most of this packaging is recyclable, Bond said.
The "food in the nude" program, which has since expanded to about eight or nine more New World stores, is part of a larger sustainability effort from parent company Foodstuffs, according to NZ Herald.
Efforts such as these—including bans on plastic straws, utensils and other single-use plastics—are part of a larger and necessary movement to stop plastic pollution, which has ballooned into a 6.3 billion-ton problem.
Although one could argue that plastic-wrapped produce "may be a necessary evil" to prevent food waste and spoilage, a recent study from Friends of the Earth Europe found that wrapping, bottling and packing food in plastic does not systemically prevent food waste, and may even cause it.
"What this study shows," Julian Kirby, lead plastics campaigner at Friends of the Earth UK, told Sky News "is that between 2004 and 2014 we've seen a 40 to 50 percent increase in plastic packaging, and we've seen a doubling in food waste."
"What that really casts into quite serious doubt I think is the argument that the food packaging industry use quite often which is that we need plastic to avoid food waste," Kirby added. "Too often the industry is using plastic packaging in order to market food, to encourage us to buy more than we even need."
Many food and beverage companies are under increased public pressure to turn off the plastic tap. Last week, food and consumer goods giants such as Procter & Gamble, Nestlé, PepsiCo, Unilever, Mars Petcare, The Clorox Company, The Body Shop, Coca-Cola, Mondelēz, Danone launched a new e-commerce platform called Loop to move away from disposability and single-use waste.
We stand with @greenpeaceusa in praising @benandjerrys for demonstrating leadership with short-term sustainable goa… https://t.co/tinJ0uGuNH— EcoWatch (@EcoWatch)1548711611.0
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By Steve Trent
Joe Biden's election is a huge positive in a year that has been extremely difficult across the globe. I speak for a vast number of people who watched anxiously from outside the United States when I heartily thank those who mobilized, campaigned and voted to make it happen. Your hard work affects us all.
But we're not at the end of the line. Far from it.
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Jean-Marc Neveu and Olivier Civil never expected to find themselves battling against disposable mask pollution.
When they founded their recycling start-up Plaxtil in 2017, it was textile waste they set their sights on. The project developed a process that turned fabrics into a new recyclable material they describe as "ecological plastic."
Mounting Piles of Waste<p>It is not only the streets of Chatellerault where pandemic pollution is piling-up, but also the world's beaches and oceans. Once there, they can take up to 450 years to degrade and disappear.</p><p>Esther Röling, co-organizer of the annual Adventure Clean Up Challenge held on Hong Kong Island, has seen this waste firsthand. In October the sports challenge pitted teams against one another in a competition to remove trash from 13 hard-to-reach coastal areas around the city.</p><p>They find tons of both disposable and reusable masks, said Röling. "You wonder how it ended up there. Was it just thrown on the ground? Or was it in a garbage bag that broke open?"</p><p>Almost 10,000 kilometers away in Antibes on the sunny French Riviera, it's a similar picture. For the past few months, divers and clean-up volunteers working with an ocean clean-up non-profit called Operation Mer Propre have been collecting an increasing number of masks found on land and in the sea.</p><p>"Since the beginning of the lockdown when we started to count, we've reached 800, 900, [and now in total] 1000 masks," said co-founder Joko Peltier. </p><p>According to <a href="https://unctad.org/news/growing-plastic-pollution-wake-covid-19-how-trade-policy-can-help" target="_blank">UN estimates</a>, up to 75% of all coronavirus-related plastic could end up as waste in oceans and landfills.</p>
The Limits of Recycling<p>Yet not all are convinced the recycling of this waste is possible on a global scale. </p><p>"What those citizen groups are doing is really beneficial but once they collect it, it should just go to a landfill or an incinerator. They shouldn't necessarily expect it to get recycled," said Jonathan Krones, an industrial ecologist and visiting assistant professor of environmental studies at Boston College.</p><p>That's because mask recycling programs like Plaxtil are few and far between and most don't have the benefit of a readily adaptable production process. </p><p>Even in countries with solid recycling infrastructure, he says, the system is designed to separate out specific types of waste like bottles or cardboard.</p><p>"I imagine that it would be technically feasible to develop a separation process to filter out masks, but there simply aren't enough of them to make that economical," he said.</p><p>Collection is a big hurdle, he adds. Since each mask only weighs a fraction of a gram and they're scattered on roads or mixed with other trash, it is difficult and costly. </p><p>"You need a lot of raw material of the right quality to make investing in the recycling technology and the recycling system worthwhile," he said.<span></span><br></p>
Hemp, Sugar Cane and Sustainable Alternatives<p>Some projects are instead addressing the material used to make masks.</p><p>French company Geochanvre have created a mask made primarily from hemp, while in Australia, researchers at the Queensland University of Technology are experimenting with a disposable product made from agricultural waste. </p><p>Biodegradable options are exciting alternatives to reduce the fossil fuels needed for the creation of plastic-based masks, said Krones, but they don't absolve the wearer from the responsibility of what happens afterwards. </p><p>Bio-based masks often need their own composing solutions, he explains, because in landfill they can produce high amounts of the greenhouse gas methane when anaerobic bacteria feeds on the organic material. Methane is known to be significantly more potent than carbon dioxide.</p><p>"I think as long as we have in our mind that we want to have disposability, we're going to have to wrestle with a variety of different sorts of environmental tradeoffs," he said, adding that reusable, fabric masks are the best option available to most people.</p><p>Precimask is developing a clear face covering with an optional visor made from hard plastic, designed to be long-lasting.<br></p><p>Air enters either side of the cheeks through a technology normally found in pool filters and car exhaust systems, said company spokeswoman Juliette Chambet.</p><p>"We wanted to make ceramic-based filters that would be washable and cleanable, which would allow them to be reused as many times as desired without having to buy a new consumable or produce waste," she said. </p><p>Ultimately, encouraging mask wearers to think about the entire lifecycle of a mask is key, explains Neveu. </p><p>"We want people who put on the masks to realize that they are also responsible for the waste, he said. "It's not inevitable that this [pandemic] will become an environmental catastrophe.</p><p><em>Reposted with permission from </em><em><a href="https://www.dw.com/en/covid-19-recycling-pollution-trash-pandemic/a-55707817" target="_blank">Deutsche Welle</a>.</em><a href="https://www.ecowatch.com/r/entryeditor/2649032193#/" target="_self"></a></p>
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