Shopper apple fruit loose

Supermarkets have been called to a summit next week to accelerate the war on plastic and food waste, amid claims thousands of tonnes of plastic, and an even larger amount of wasted food, could be prevented if they switch to selling many more loose fresh products.

Members of the UK Plastics Pact, Courtauld 2030 and experts from Wrap will hold day-long talks next Thursday, in a move that coincides with Wrap’s forthcoming Food Waste Action Week.

Wrap said it was also in ongoing moves with supermarkets to try to persuade them to introduce more trials in stores to roll out the sale of loose fresh produce, with currently only an estimated 18% of products sold without packaging.

In November, The Grocer revealed the UK’s pioneering Plastics Pact faces missing its target of 30% of fruit & veg being sold loose by 2025, even though that is a watered-down target from its original aim of 80%

Wrap is calling for a ban on packaging across many products, such as that already brought in by countries including France and Spain.

It claims 8,800 tonnes of plastic packaging a year could be taken off the market if supermarkets sold just three products loose: apples, bananas and potatoes. It is also calling for more than 20 other products to be routinely sold loose.

Wrap said such moves could have a major impact on the 6.4 million tonnes of food wasted in consumers’ homes, the vast majority of which could have been eaten.

It estimates allowing people to buy what they need, without plastic or date labels, could prevent 130,000 tonnes of CO2e emissions every year.

“Food Waste Action Week will focus on the benefits of buying loose and both encourage people to do so where they can, while helping our retail partners take steps towards being able to offer more loose produce on sale; and communicate the benefits to their customers,” said Estelle Herszenhorn, head of food system transformation at Wrap.

She said next Thursday’s talks, chaired by Wrap chair Sebastian Munden, would aim to “accelerate progress on household food waste prevention” and encourage a “rethink by supermarkets”.

Tesco has backed Wrap’s calls for a government ban on packaging for fruit & veg, saying it would create a “level playing field” in the war on plastic.

Herszenhorn said: “The reality of what we’re asking retailers to do is huge – with many practical barriers to overcome.

“Add to this the idea of changing human behaviour when we’ve become accustomed to picking up a single bag of carrots rather than a handful of loose carrots – and the task seems daunting.

“But when roughly half of carbon emissions can only be addressed by changing the way we make, use and discard products – and with the world already experiencing a full year of temperatures beyond the 1.5⁰C limit – these are precisely the steps we must take.”