Can grocers sell produce without plastic bags and boxes?
Marks & Spencer is testing the sale of more than 90 lines of loose fruit and vegetables free of plastic packaging at a store in southwest London.
The range includes hard fruit and vegetables like potatoes and bananas. More perishable items, such as soft fruits and berries, will be sold in compostable baskets made from paper pulp.
M&S also removed “best before” date labels as part of the three-month trial.
Greengrocers, or individuals trained in handling fruits and vegetables, will be available to help customers pick and weigh their items and offer advice on how to best preserve produce and prevent food waste at home.
M&S also committed to launching additional lines of loose produce, replacing plastic produce bags with paper ones and phasing out plastic barcode stickers in favor of eco-friendly alternatives in an effort to save 580 tons (1.3 mm) of waste over two years.
“We know our customers want to play their part in cutting out plastic, while as a business our goal is to become zero-waste by 2025,” said Louise Nicholls, head of food sustainability at M&S., in a statement. “That’s why we’re working hard to reduce the amount of plastic packaging we use without compromising on food quality and contributing to waste.”
It’s not unusual for city laws that ban plastic bags to exclude bags used for items like fruit and vegetables as well as meat due to sanitary concerns. Last July, Morrisons, the U.K. grocer, announced it was bringing back brown paper bags for loose fruit and vegetables, although retail groups have been vexed about the added costs of shifting to paper.
James Murray, the editor-in-chief of BusinessGreen, also noted that waste experts have long warned that quickly switching away from plastic packaging “could inadvertently lead to increased levels of food waste and higher greenhouse gas emissions, unless appropriate alternative forms of packaging are found.”
- M&S Trials Plastic-Free Produce As It Accelerates Plastic Reduction Plan – Marks & Spencer
- M&S to start selling loose fruit and veg in shift away from plastic – The Guardian
- M&S launches plastic-free fruit and veg trial – Businessgreen
- IKEA says no to plastic–- RetailWire
DISCUSSION QUESTIONS: How would U.S. consumers respond to ending the use of plastic bags and removing “best before” dates in produce departments? Would having greengrocer experts on hand to educate shoppers on food preservation and waste be enough to allay the concerns of U.S. consumers?