Selling fruit and vegetables in bulk prevents a lot of food waste

Packaging vegetables, fruit and other fresh products to make them last longer – usually in plastic – often has the opposite effect. Selling separately has enormous potential to counter the mountains of household food waste. If the consumer is properly informed about the best way to store these products, a big contribution can be made.

Save 14 million shopping baskets

In these times of high living costs, savings also add up nicely, according to the UK branch of Wrap, the international anti-food waste organisation. In the UK alone, separate sales could save 14 million shopping baskets of useful food and also save 1,100 lorries full of plastic per year, the Wrap calculates. This is mainly because consumers can buy exactly the amount they think they need and don’t have to throw out spoiled – or sometimes just bad – products.

A striking difference is also mushrooms, which can only be obtained from the refrigerated section of Albert Heijn or Jumbo in a plastic container, but which can be weighed separately in a paper bag at Tesco or Sainsbury’s.

More loose product in UK

In British supermarkets, the fresh produce department already sells significantly more loose than most Dutch counterparts. Potatoes or onions are loose in the box, usually in several varieties. Packaged apples or pears are rare, and broccoli in plastic is rare. A striking difference is also mushrooms, which can only be obtained from the refrigerated section of Albert Heijn or Jumbo in a plastic container, but which can be weighed separately in a paper bag at Tesco or Sainsbury’s. If you only need 8 instead of 10 or 12, no problem.

Improvements

Despite the many individual sales of fruit and vegetables, there is still much room for improvement, says Wrap. The organization commissioned an 18-month study of the 5 most discarded fruits and vegetables: apples, bananas, broccoli, cucumbers and potatoes. Products in the original (plastic) packaging were compared to what was sold separately. In addition, the researchers also looked at the best temperature to keep such products at home as long as possible, the London-based organization reports. “The result was that selling the 5 types of fruit and vegetables separately, combined with removing the use-by date, saved a total of 100,000 tonnes of household food waste and 10,300 tonnes of plastic. This corresponds to 130,000 tonnes of CO22 left over. This is achieved by allowing consumers to buy exactly what they need and decide for themselves when that food is still good to use. Although some supermarkets already sell individual products individually, there is room to increase this significantly in the entire fresh produce segment.”

Keep well longer

Wrap also confirms the belief that fresh food lasts much longer if stored in the fridge. Apples stored at 4 degrees do not show signs of rot until 2.5 months after the use-by date. With broccoli it was much shorter after 2 weeks, but still better than current practice, Wrap believes.

By deleting usage data, there is huge potential to preserve good food and not throw it away

Education

Supermarkets and other stores should therefore make it a habit to inform their customers about this as much as possible, says Wrap’s CEO Marcus Gover. “This important research could be a game changer for the fight against food waste and plastic pollution. We have clarified the connection between food waste, packaging, data labeling and food storage. Although packaging is important and often plays a decisive role in protecting food, we show here that plastic packaging doesn’t necessarily extend the shelf life of uncut fresh produce. It can actually increase the amount of food waste. By erasing usage data, there is huge potential to preserve good food and not throw it away.”

Crisis livelihood

Gover refers to the climate crisis and the cost of living crisis. “This study couldn’t have come at a better time. Retailers need to go the extra mile and take our recommendations on board so we can make real progress. It’s helping to save the planet while saving money, a real win- win.”

Time

Wrap has shared the results of its research with the major supermarkets with which the organization works excellently. Gover: “They are fully committed to implementing our recommendations, but we need to recognize that it will take time and that the whole industry will need to work together to achieve results. We must also involve the public in the coming months. We will continue to consult with the relevant authorities to adjust all regulations and requirements where necessary, and we will also continue to better inform both food suppliers and consumers.”

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