The mobile aisle is a joint initiative between environmentalists A Plastic Planet and Dutch supermarket chain Ecoplaza, which recently launched the world’s first plastic-free supermarket aisle.
The retailer at the forefront of reducing plastic packaging and aims to have converted at least 75% of its own brand products to plastic-free packaging by the end of the year. The group has already rolled out 1,370 plastic-free items to its 74 stores across the Netherlands.
The mobile aisle includes around 300 Ecoplaza products, such as rice, chocolate and cereals, all in plastic-free packaging. It showcases packaging alternatives such as pulpboard, fibre, cotton, card, paper, glass, metal and other biomaterials.
Goods will all carry the Plastic Free Trust Mark, a front-of-pack consumer mark created by A Plastic Planet earlier this year.
The mobile aisle arrived at the Volvo Ocean Race Ocean Summit, which marks the finish line of the 2017/18 edition of the Volvo Ocean Race, today (28 June). The summit will bring together leading lights from the worlds of sport, science, government, and campaigning to discuss safeguarding the future of global oceans from plastic.
Raising awareness of alternatives
A spokesperson for A Plastic Planet told FoodNavigator that, while consumer awareness of plastic pollution is high, people do not always know that there are alternatives to using plastic.
“Consumers are really aware of the damage plastic is doing but not necessarily the fact that a range of plastic free products are available now. And they are. If consumers realise plastic-free products are available here and now they are going to demand them and manufacturers and retailers will respond to that demand.”
A Plastic Planet rejects the current focus placed on recycling plastics, arguing that particularly with food packaging there is only a very limited number of times plastics can be re-used. The spokesperson explained: “We don’t believe recycling is the answer… The solution is turning off the plastic tap at source, especially in grocery. Where is the logic in packaging something as fleeting as food in something as lasting as plastic?”
The spokesperson also rejected the notion that plastic packaging is necessary to minimise food waste, pointing to the fact that as plastic use has increased so to have waste levels. “There are lots of plastic free options that do the same job as plastic but aren’t plastic. While the amount of plastic packaging has increased drastically in recent decades, food waste has also gone up. We do not believe cutting plastic will result in increased food waste.”
Packaging innovation delivering choice
A Plastic Planet Co-Founder Sian Sutherland, who joined the awareness initiative in the Hague today, believes that the last 18-months have been a “huge wake-up call” for the world on plastic pollution.
By highlighting alternatives to plastic packaging she believes A Plastic Planet is helping empower consumers with “choice”.
“Plastic free aisles offer our best chance of freedom. They give shoppers who no longer want to be part of the plastic problem the choice to be part of the plastic solution… The plastic free aisle is a symbol for change. Without choice, we cannot change.”
Ekoplaza chief executive Erik Does believes that the pace of packaging innovation needs to accelerate. “Plastic free aisles are the accelerator we need to innovate faster in finding alternatives to plastic. They have inspired our customers to eliminate plastic from their weekly food shop. We are proud to be working to create a truly plastic-free future for food and drink retail.”
A Plastic Planet hopes to bring the mobile aisle to other European cities in a continued drive to raise awareness.