Choose Loose

We’re calling on UK supermarkets to remove plastic from top-selling fruit & veg

Fed up of seeing your fave fruit and veg wrapped in plastic in the supermarkets? We certainly are! That’s why we’ve teamed up with our pals over at Everyday Plastic to do something about it!

We’ve launched a petition calling on UK supermarkets to remove the plastic packaging from five top-selling fruits and vegetables. And we need your help to make them do it!

Research shows that packaged fruit & veg is creating billions of pieces of unnecessary plastic waste, generating millions of tonnes of food waste, and costing families hundreds of pounds in uneaten food every year. But the industry argues that plastic packaging protects our food in transit, extends freshness, prevents spoilage and reduces waste. Something doesn’t add up…

In 2022, a report by WRAP recommended that UK supermarkets “sell uncut fresh fruit & veg loose unless there is a compelling reason not to”. Despite strong evidence and retailers’ commitment to reducing their plastic footprint, none of them has taken action.

To truly tackle the plastic waste and climate crisis, we need businesses to act. Removing plastic packaging from fruit & veg products is long overdue. It is a simple, effective and proven way to stop billions of pieces of single-use plastic from being thrown away every year.

Our European neighbours are taking steps. Back in January 2022, France banned 30 fruits and vegetables from being wrapped in plastic packaging. This year, Spain will join them. It’s time for the UK to do the same.

If potatoes, apples, bananas, onions and carrots are often available loose in supermarkets, then why are their packaged counterparts sold too?

We are calling for all UK supermarkets to remove plastic packaging from these five top-selling fruits and vegetables so shoppers can #ChooseLoose.

Why is this so important?

Fruit & veg is currently a significant source of household plastic packaging waste

In May 2022, The Big Plastic Count revealed that over 1m pieces of fruit & veg packaging were thrown away by nearly 100,000 households across the UK in one week. Averaging over 10 bits of fruit & veg packaging per household per week, If household averages were typical of every home in the UK, almost 300m pieces of plastic fruit & veg packaging would be thrown away each week – equivalent to around 14bn pieces per year.

Plastic packaging is not the solution to preventing food waste

Last year, WRAP published a report which showed that packaged fruit & veg not only generates greater amounts of unnecessary plastic packaging waste but is complicit in increasing food waste too. On average, 29% of fresh fruit & veg purchased by households in the EU  is wasted. Globally, we currently waste 2.5bn tonnes of food annually – almost half (46%) of which is thrown-out fruit & veg.

If you’ve ever had to throw out a half-used packet of fresh herbs, an oversized bag of wilting spinach or a load of sprouting potatoes, then you’re not alone. Between 2004 and 2015, food waste in European households almost doubled while plastic packaging increased by 25%. This is no coincidence.

We end up spending more on packaged fruit & veg that we then have to throw out

Through supermarkets, we have almost limitless access to food in the UK. Packaged fruit & veg forces people to buy too much, meaning we spend more money on food that we end up having to throw away. All this at a time when grocery inflation has hit record levels amidst a cost-of-living crisis in which over 2 million people are using food banks. Buying the exact quantity of fruit & veg you need will help you save money, but pricing of loose produce is poorly communicated, inconsistent and incomparable.

Both plastic packaging and food waste are major contributors to the climate crisis

Food waste is a major source of greenhouse gas emissions, responsible for up to 10% of the world’s total emissions. When we throw food away, it rots and releases methane, a greenhouse gas with 80 times the warming power of CO2. To compound that, as plastic is made from fossil fuels (oil and gas), the production, use and disposal of plastic packaging is having a major impact on the climate crisis – predicted to contribute 15% of global emissions by 2050.

Why should you support this?

The benefits are huge. Removing plastic packaging from these five items could:

  • Remove an estimated 1.7 billion pieces of plastic.

  • Prevent 77,000 tonnes of household food waste.

  • Save shoppers a combined total of over £85m in uneaten food

  • Stop 25,000 tonnes of CO2 from being emitted.

  • Help to demonstrate that a low-waste business model is possible, promoting more responsible consumption and a shift away from our throwaway culture.

What does #ChooseLoose mean for you? You could…

  • Choose your own – decide on the size and condition of your fruit & veg – big or small, muddy or clean, straight or wonky – to meet your personal requirements or standards.
  • Choose how many – by buying the exact quantity of fruit & veg you need, you will save money and prevent food waste.
  • Choose loose – reduce the unnecessary, often hard-to-recycle, plastic packaging waste that ends up in the bin.

How will we use your voice?

Removing plastic packaging from fruit & veg products is a big and complex task. Supermarkets have made voluntary commitments to eliminate plastic packaging from fresh produce through the Plastics Pact, but they are not acting fast or urgently enough.

By signing your name, you will help us to prove that loose fruit & veg is not only what we need, but also what we want. We’ll deliver the signatures to supermarkets as evidence of public demand, and we will work with supermarkets to accelerate the transition to packaging-free produce.

Add your voice today – appeal to supermarkets to increase the availability and affordability of packaging-free fruit & veg so that all of us can #ChooseLoose.

Choose Loose Fact Sheet

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Why are you only suggesting five products? What about all the other fruit & veg?

We have selected the first five easy wins as a means of encouraging immediate action from supermarkets. This is an opportunity for supermarkets to show they are willing for further voluntary action, which will focus on a greater range of fruit and vegetables as a next step. 

Supermarkets already sell loose produce, what’s the problem?

Whilst there is sometimes a loose option for a selection of fruit and vegetables, according to WRAP’s research, 80% of apples and bananas, 88% of cucumbers and 97% of grapes are currently sold in plastic packaging. We are urging supermarkets to remove the packaged option for the five selected fruit and vegetables.

Doesn’t plastic protect fruit & veg and stop it from going off?

This can be the case for certain fruits, such as soft summer fruits. However,  WRAP’s research (2022) showed 100,000 tonnes of food waste could be prevented from removing packaging from the top five most wasted fresh fruit and veg products.

How do you propose to remove fruit & veg packaging?

For the selection of fruit and vegetables we are focusing on here, there is often an unpackaged version available so removing the plastic packaged option is straightforward.

Why don’t supermarkets already sell loose?

We understand that in some cases a loose option is sometimes available. However, increasingly packaging is used and defines the minimum quantity that can be chosen by a customer, which may be more or less than the customer would choose to buy. Packaging is largely used for convenience. It is a convenient way to label products, but by no means the only way. It also overcomes the requirement for in-house infrastructure such as weighing scales. 

Don’t supermarkets have to do this anyway as part of the UK Plastic Pact?

The UK Plastic Pact is a voluntary commitment to which supermarkets have committed but there is little evidence of significant progress. By acting to #ChooseLoose, supermarkets can clearly communicate their willingness for action and positive change under the UK Plastics Pact. 

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