Supermarket retailers in the UK are being urged to stop selling all fruit and vegetables in plastic packaging.
A new report released by waste reduction charity WRAP (Waste & Resources Action Programme) after an 18-month study has recommended that supermarkets and grocery retailers remove best before dates and plastic packaging from all fresh fruit and vegetables to prevent 14 million shopping baskets worth of food from going to waste.
The charity did the study into five frequently-wasted food items – apples, bananas, broccoli, cucumber, and potatoes.
The items were stored in the original packaging and at different temperatures.
The charity found that selling the five items loose and removing best before dates could result in a combined yearly saving of around 100,000 tonnes of household food waste, which is more than 10,300 tonnes of plastic and 130,000 tonnes of CO2 equivalent.
WRAP said its findings debunk the idea that single-use plastic wrappers help prevent waste, admitting that they make “little to no difference to shelf life”, and said it has shared its recommendations with the UK’s largest food retailers.
Implementing them, however, it said was “likely to take time”.
Speaking on the findings from the study, Marcus Gover – CEO at WRAP – explained: “This important research could be a game-changer in the fight against food waste and plastic pollution [as] we have demystified the relationship between wasted food, plastic packaging, date labels and food storage.
“We are all living with the reality of the climate emergency and the rising cost of living [so] this new clarity could not be more timely.
“We need retailers to step up and follow our recommendations so we can achieve real progress in tackling food waste and plastic pollution as this helps save the planet and us money at the same time – a real win-win.”
WRAP conceded it would take time for things to change and it will now consult the Food Standards Agency, Defra, and the food industry to make loose produce in supermarkets a reality by 2025.
Food Standards Agency chairwoman, Susan Jebb, added that businesses should ensure the right date label is applied to their products to help consumers make informed choices and reduce the risk of food-borne illnesses, explaining: “A ‘best before’ date is about quality which means the food will be safe to eat after this date, even if it may not be at its best.
“Business should display ‘use by’ dates for food like meat products and ready to eat salads which could be unsafe if left for too long.
“Date labels are important – not only for cutting down on food waste, but for keeping us safe too.”
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