Plastic wrap creates more food waste, study finds

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Buying fruits and vegetables wrapped in plastic wrap creates two problems for the environment: more plastic and more food waste, according to a new study.

Wrap, a UK-based nonprofit, looked at the sales of five fresh fruit and vegetables over an 18-month period. He found that retail sales of plastic-wrapped items, including bananas, broccoli, apples, potatoes and cucumbers, caused consumers to overbuy, leading to additional food waste.

“While packaging is important and often plays a critical role in food protection, we have proven that plastic packaging does not necessarily extend the shelf life of fresh, uncut produce,” said Marcus Gover, CEO of Wrap, at the Guardian. “It may actually increase food waste in this case. We’ve shown the huge potential to prevent good food from being thrown away by removing date labels,” Gover said.

Plastic on products

The research found that selling the items in bulk rather than plastic, as well as removing any use-by dates, would have reduced plastic waste by more than 10,300 tonnes and prevented around 100,000 tonnes of product from remaining. not consumed.

“We found that storing food in the fridge at less than five degrees gave days, weeks and, in the case of apples, months of better quality shelf life,” Gover said. “We found that for most items, the plastic packaging they were sold in made little or no difference to their shelf life.

Photo by ja ma on Unsplash

“In cases where consumers had no choice but to buy more than they needed in prepackaged packages, this could actually increase food waste,” he added.

The main difference, according to Wrap, is that when sold in bulk, customers bought only what they needed and used their own judgment to determine their own “best before” schedule.

Wrap is now urging supermarkets to phase out excess plastic packaging and produce best before dates by 2025 to help stem the food waste crisis. This change alone would eliminate over 1,000 plastic garbage trucks each year.

“We are all living with the reality of the climate emergency and the rising cost of living. This new clarity could not be more timely. We need retailers to step up and follow our recommendations so that we can make real progress in the fight against food waste and plastic pollution. It saves money for the planet and for us at the same time – a real win-win,” Gover said.

The climate impact of food

Global food waste is significant, with more than a third of all edible food not reaching the market; estimates put the global annual total at around 1.4 billion tonnes of food waste. It is one of the main contributors to climate change.

Photo by 俊瑋王 on Unsplash

In the UK, Britons throw away almost half a million tonnes of fresh vegetables and a quarter of a million tonnes of fresh fruit every year.

The United States is the world’s largest producer of food waste, producing more than 40 million tons each year, or about 220 pounds per person per year. Food is the largest landfill mass category, accounting for 22% of municipal solid waste.

Plastic is also a big problem for the planet. More than 300 million tonnes of plastic are produced each year – a number of recent researches indicate that this is already too much for the planet, even if we immediately stop producing new plastic. Fifty percent of new plastic is single-use, and around eight million tonnes of plastic enters waterways and oceans each year.

Photo by Fikri Rasyid on Unsplash

Bryce K. Locke