Smiley Movement logo

Less plastic packaging reduces food waste

Words by Smiley Team

It’s a well-known fact that plastics are damaging our planet and causing problems for our environment, wild animals, and attempts at climate action.

Now, a new study has found that abandoning single-use plastics in supermarkets is not only good for the environment, but for reducing food waste.

The research suggests plastic packaging on fresh produce doesn't make it last longer and leads to more food getting thrown away. Sustainability charity Wrap carried out the study which also looked at sales of bananas, broccoli and cucumbers.

“We found that storing food in the fridge at below five degrees gave days, weeks, and, in the case of apples, months more quality product life,” says Marcus Gover, Wrap’s chief executive.

“For most items, the plastic packaging they were sold in made little or no difference to their shelf life.”

[Sign up for a weekly dose of positive news]

It seems that plastic packaging actually forces shoppers to buy more produce than they need, leading to more getting thrown away days later.

Consumers in Britain throw away around half a million tonnes of fresh vegetables and a quarter of a million tonnes of fresh fruit every year.

Wrap found that if the five tested products (cucumbers, potatoes, apples, bananas and broccoli) were sold loose, and the best-before dates removed, it could save more than 10,300 tonnes of plastic and about 100,000 tonnes of food waste.

“This helps save the planet and us money at the same time," Marcus adds, at a time when Britons are facing rising living costs.

Most major supermarkets have started to sell lots of loose fresh products, which were previously only available in plastic. But Wrap and other environmental charities hope that a wider if not complete range of fresh fruit and vegetables will be sold this way soon.

Zero-waste food stores are also on the rise, offering an alternative to plastic packaging and chain supermarkets.

Sarah Maloy, owner of Shop Zero, says that zero-waste shops are up against it trying to compete with the buying power of big supermarkets, but that they are making a positive difference despite it all.

“Adopting more zero waste practices such as refilling detergent bottles and opting for plastic-free kitchen swaps like wax food wraps instead of cling film, and choosing compostable sponges, are quick and simple swaps that people can make," she says.  “I definitely feel that zero waste companies and initiatives are making a difference. In my business, our community has already had great success with our campaigns, encouraging people to make a start on reducing waste.”

Wrap are now consulting with the Food Standards Agency and the food industry to make total loose produce in supermarkets a reality by 2025. Meanwhile, the zero-waste and anti-plastic revolution continues to grow and inspire hope for environmental change across the country and further. 

Inspired to act?

GET INVOLVED: Find out how sustainability charity Wrap is on a mission to help our planet.

ACT: Want to reduce your plastic? Have a go at the Marine Conservation Society's plastic challenge


This article aligns with the following UN SDGs

You might also like…