21 Aug 2018 --- UK supermarket chain Asda has announced that it will be removing plastic wrapping from its swedes as of this week. Each year, the retailer sells almost six million of the root vegetable, with the removal of their wraps expected to result in a reduction of 14 tons of plastic. The removal of the packaging is expected to have no effect on shelf-life and comes as part of the supermarket’s sustainability goal to achieve 100 percent recyclable packaging across all own brand products by 2025.
Nikki Dixon, Senior Manager for Plastic Reduction at Asda comments: “We’re committed to reducing our plastic usage across own brand products, lowering our impact on the environment and helping families to avoid plastic waste in their homes. Working closely with our British growers to ensure delicious veg is available throughout the year, our naked swedes will maintain their taste credentials, without the need for any plastic.”
A popular, earthy root vegetable, customers will see hundreds of naked swedes in-store just in time for the cooler weather. The removal of the plastic wrapping also sees the shelf-life remain the same as previously, with the British-grown veg perfect for up to seven days.
“Extensive shelf-life tests have shown that there is minimal difference in the shelf-life of a wrapped or unwrapped swede, so the great news is that customers won’t see any difference in the quality of their swede, or the freshness,” continues Dixon.
“We’re currently scrutinizing each and every piece of fruit and veg that we sell to see if we can do things differently – and where we can undress our fruit or veg, we’re committed to doing so. It’s a delicate balance, as our tests show that removing the plastic wrapping from some fruit and vegetables can drastically reduce shelf-life and actually increase food waste.”
“Unwrapped cucumbers, for example, lose three times more weight than wrapped due to dehydration, which leads to rubbery, yellowing cucumbers that are more prone to rotting and mold,” she says.
“Equally, red and white cabbages are prone to moisture loss when the plastic shrink wrap is removed, resulting in a reduced shelf-life of around 2-3 days and ultimately a poorer quality product.”
“It’s really important to Asda to make sure that we balance plastic reduction with food waste. We’ve made stretching commitments to reduce the amount of food that goes to waste and it’s also a big environmental issue if the energy and resources used to grow food end up being for no benefit,” Dixon adds.
“We’re working with packaging experts at Leeds Beckett University to find viable alternatives to plastic in the long term, but where we can take plastic off now, we will. We will be trialing various changes to our fresh produce packaging, with a view to more joining our naked swedes – so watch this space,” she concludes.
The move is part of Asda's ongoing commitment to use less and recycle more plastic, with a plan to reduce plastic packaging in own brand products by an initial 10 percent by February 2Click to Enlarge019. By 2025, Asda pledges to make all packaging 100 percent recyclable.
Also in the news
Dutch supermarket chain Jumbo launched a so-called “natural label” on a selection of its organic vegetables range, marking a move into the mainstream for the technology. The “natural label” is achieved through the use of laser technology that makes it possible to display the indication of “organic” directly onto the produce, without the need for additional packaging material. The method holds potential for further retailers who are looking to reduce plastic packaging and reduce their environmental footprint.
Meanwhile, UK supermarket chain Morrisons is encouraging shoppers to bring their own plastic containers to the meat and fish counter in exchange for 100 loyalty card points (the equivalent of 10 pence). The move comes as part of a series of pledges to reduce plastic pollution, including guarantees that all own brand plastic packaging will be reusable, recyclable or compostable by 2025.
Recently, Korean grocery store E-Mart fueled discussion around how best to balance decreased food waste with reduced plastic after introducing a novel packaging concept: the “One a Day Banana” pack which contains several bananas at different stages of ripeness. E-Mart has been congratulated in some quarters for its attempts to reduce food waste, while critics have suggested that the pack constitutes an unnecessary use of packaging, especially given bananas have a natural skin barrier.
You can read more about single-use plastic bans here.
By Joshua Poole
This feature is provided by FoodIngredientsFirst's sister website, PackagingInsights.
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