Mobile plastic-free supermarket aisle to tour Europe

Campaigners claim a plastic-free supermarket aisle is the future of food and drink retail – and a mobile version of this vision will soon be travelling across Europe to promote a plastic-free way of life.

In February, Dutch supermarket chain Ekoplaza launched a plastic-free aisle in one of its Amsterdam stores, offering 700 products free from single-use plastic packaging. The company has since rolled out 1,370 plastic-free products in its 74 branches across the country – and is now taking the concept on the road.

The ‘Mobe-Aisle’, which consists of a range of food and drink items free from plastic packaging, has been launched today (28 June) at a global ocean summit in the Hague, the finish line of the round-the-world Volvo Ocean Race.

Mobile plastic-free supermarket aisle to tour Europe
The 'plastic-free' Mobe-Aisle is being transported in a flatbed truck

The Ocean Summits have been developed by Volvo and the UN Environment Programme’s Clean Seas Campaign. Taking place at seven of the the race’s stopover locations, the summits bring together governments, industry stakeholders, scientists and campaigners to explore solutions to the ocean plastics crisis. At an earlier summit in Gothenburg, the home of Volvo, the car manufacturer announced plans to use 25 per cent recycled plastic in all new cars by 2025.

Ekoplaza’s Chief Executive, Erik Does, described the supermarket’s plastic-free aisles as an “accelerator” to encourage innovation around plastic alternatives. “They have inspired our customers to eliminate plastic from their weekly food shop,” he said. “We are proud to be working to create a truly plastic-free future for food and drink retail.”

'A world suffocating in plastic'
Mobile plastic-free supermarket aisle to tour Europe
The supermarket aisle stocks products packaged in bioplastics as well as metal, card and glass

The plastic-free aisle was created in partnership with campaign group A Plastic Planet, which has been calling for the introduction of similar schemes in the UK – something Prime Minister Theresa May also hinted at in the government’s 25 Year Environment Plan.

Sian Sutherland, Co-Founder of A Plastic Planet, commented: “In a world suffocating in plastic, 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 last 18 months have been a huge wake-up call for all of us. Now we know what we know about the result of our plastic addiction, let us not be the generation that caused this but did not do enough to change our ways.”

All the products on the plastic-free aisles will bear the new Plastic Free Trust Mark, which designates products free from plastic packaging and which was also adopted by UK supermarket chain Iceland in May, the first in the country to do so.

A Plastic Planet’s definition of plastic covers the conventional, single-use material – the plastic-free aisle replaces these with recyclable alternatives such as metal, paper, card, glass and bioplastics, which are described as ‘plastic-free’ because they are certified as compostable, either at home or in industrial facilities.

The group’s website states that the bioplastic packaging should be placed into food waste bins rather than residual waste – but this relies on consumers having access to food waste collection services, which in the UK are being cut by a number of local authorities. It also relies on those services being able to process the bioplastics – a treatment option which is not yet fully available across the UK.

Some critics of the plastic-free aisle have stated that describing bioplastics as ‘plastic-free’ is confusing, and have called for the development of more shopping options that are entirely packaging-free, instead offering refillable containers to customers – much like the store which opened in Glasgow last month with funding from the Scottish Government. 

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