World first: Plastic-free supermarket aisle opens in Amsterdam

636554910794936960plastcifree.jpg

01 Mar 2018 --- Organic supermarket chain, Ekoplaza, has opened the world’s first plastic-free aisle in its Amsterdam store in what is seen as a major victory for the international A Plastic Planet campaign. Plans are ahead to roll-out further plastic-free aisles across all of Ekoplaza’s 74 branches by the end of 2018, including a new store in The Hague, which is set to open later this year. 

The aisle offers more than 700 plastic-free products including a range of meat, dairy, confectionery and fruit & vegetable items. Prices are not expected to rise, with plastic packaging replaced by scalable and convenient biodegradable packaging. 

FoodIngredientsFirst spoke exclusively to Ekoplaza Chief Executive, Erik Does, on the day of the launch about what it means to open the world’s first plastic-free supermarket aisle. “It’s been a journey for many years now, it’s not a marketing trick, it’s a challenge and it’s about making choices. For meat, we just found the solution to plastic-free packaging two months ago, and for other products, we have had good solutions for some years now.”

Click to Enlarge
Ekoplaza Chief Executive, Erik Does:
“It’s been a journey for many years now,
it’s not a marketing trick, it’s a challenge
and it’s about making choices.” 

“I do believe that we will be able to have a plastic-free society sooner than we think. I think it’s more a question of: are we willing to do it, are we willing to change and are we ready for change? As a company we are ready, and we are willing, and a lot of suppliers are also willing, and as a citizen, a healthy planet is what the world wants.” 

A Plastic Planet has been working for 12 months to encourage supermarkets to offer plastic-free products amid global concerns about growing plastic pollution. According to Innova Market Insights data, 58 percent of globally launched food and beverage products are packaged in plastic, a 5 percent increase from 2013, while 96 percent of all newly launched water products in 2017 are packaged in PET bottles. And according to the Earth Institute at Columbia University, only 9.5 percent of plastic is recycled and there are already 165 million tons of plastic debris in our oceans. 

Co-founder of A Plastic Planet, Sian Sutherland, said that this news represented “a landmark moment for the global fight against plastic pollution.”

“For decades, shoppers have been sold the lie that we can’t live without plastic in food and drink. A plastic-free aisle dispels all that. Finally, we can see a future where the public have a choice about whether to buy plastic or plastic-free. Right now we have no choice.”

“There is absolutely no logic in wrapping something as fleeting as food in something as indestructible as plastic. Plastic food and drink packaging remains useful for a matter of days yet remains a destructive presence on the Earth for centuries afterwards.”

Ekoplaza also uses eco-friendly alternatives to plastic in the secondary packaging of its plastic-free products. The company uses mainly Dutch suppliers such as Do-It – a large importer of rice and wheat – who provide cartons without plastic tape. “They deliver us products that look like plastic but are 100 percent decomposable,” says Does, who is also concerned by reducing food waste, an issue often associated with decreased packaging. “As an organic company we’d like to have our products as close as possible in terms of the supply chain.”

“We tell them what we need and they produce what we will buy and then you have a large part to the solution of food waste already tackled. It’s the point of taking responsibility, so it’s the complete strategic ambition of the company to provide products the way the consumer expects them to be.” 

Click to EnlargeDespite widespread movements to tackle plastic pollution by eradicating its use, there is a counter-view within the industry that plastic can play a positive role in the environmental future of the planet due to its recyclability potential. Melinda de Boer, a spokesperson for Amcor, one of the biggest global suppliers of plastic, spoke to FoodIngredientsFirst about this issue: “Plastic packaging is light and typically excels in resource efficiency and environmental footprint compared with glass jars or metal cans.”

“With all packaging formats, the industry-wide aim is to increase collection, recovery and recycling, and that's the purpose of collaborative efforts such as the Ellen MacArthur Foundation's New Plastic Economy initiative.”

Whether the answer to plastic pollution can be found in the discontinuation of its use as a packaging material, or in the adoption of a full-scale recycling model, is an ongoing industry debate. News of the world’s first plastic-free aisle – a collaboration between environmental campaigners, a supermarket chain, and suppliers – does, however, suggest that the consumer demand for more environmentally-friendly products is growing. 

By Joshua Poole

To contact our editorial team please email us at editorial@cnsmedia.com

Related Articles

Packaging & Technology News

Iceland first retailer to adopt plastic-free Trust Mark on packaging

16 May 2018 --- UK supermarket chain, Iceland, will this month become the first retailer to use a plastic-free Trust Mark on its product labels. The Trust Mark is a world first, pioneered by anti-plastic campaigner group, A Plastic Planet, and will be used on Iceland’s home brand products in order to give a clear indication of eco-friendly packaging.

Packaging & Technology News

Plastic recycling: Canary Wharf launches UK’s first deposit return machine

24 Apr 2018 --- East London commercial district, Canary Wharf, has unveiled the first UK on-site Deposit Return Scheme machine as part of its “breaking the plastic habit” strategy. The move coincides with the UK Government’s strategy to tackle plastic waste by introducing a European-style nation-wide Deposit Return Scheme on all plastic, glass and metal drink containers.

Packaging & Technology News

Earth Day 2018: Plastic pollution tops the agenda

23 Apr 2018 --- The major theme of yesterday’s Earth Day was the global issue of plastic pollution. Earth Day focused its attention on fundamentally changing human attitudes and behavior about plastics and catalyzing a significant reduction in plastic pollution across the world. The move comes as an ever-increasing number of nations establish strategies for dealing with plastic pollution.

Packaging & Technology News

The war on plastic: UK to ban sale of plastic straws among new measures

19 Apr 2018 --- The UK government has promised to ban the sale of plastic straws, plastic drink stirrers and plastic-stemmed cotton buds, as the country steps up its efforts in the battle against plastic pollution. Prime Minister Theresa May announced the new plans before a meeting of the Commonwealth leaders in London, urging those nations to sign-up to the newly-formed Commonwealth Clean Oceans Alliance. It has been suggested that the ban will come into effect later this year.

Packaging & Technology News

World first: Plastic-free supermarket aisle opens in Amsterdam

01 Mar 2018 --- Organic supermarket chain, Ekoplaza, has opened the world’s first plastic-free aisle in its Amsterdam store in what is seen as a major victory for the international A Plastic Planet campaign. Plans are ahead to roll-out further plastic-free aisles across all of Ekoplaza’s 74 branches by the end of 2018, including a new store in The Hague, which is set to open later this year.

More Articles