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Fruit and Vegetables on the loose - is going packaging-free the answer to the UK’s plastics waste problem?

Greenwood, S. & Reynolds, C. ORCID: 0000-0002-1073-7394 Fruit and Vegetables on the loose - is going packaging-free the answer to the UK’s plastics waste problem?. .


The UK fresh produce sector (fruit and vegetables) uses 38 kt of plastic consumer packaging per year and is the fifth largest product category for the creation of plastic waste in the UK. The recycling rate for plastic packaging (pots, tubs and trays, and flexibles) used in the category is less than one third with the remainder going to landfill or incineration. One way of addressing this is to sell fresh produce loose. This review paper takes a mixed approach of a literature search of historical loose produce trials, a plastic packaging policy and food waste policy coherence analysis, and a supermarket store audit. The results present the trials in context with developing legislation and consumer campaigning. They are also used to check progress against UK Plastics Pact (UKPP) targets and alignment with Courtauld 2030 and SDG 12.3 (which have food waste reduction targets). Grey literature on historic trials demonstrates that food waste is created within the supply chain, particularly in store, and needs to be managed, highlighting the tension between the reduction of plastics waste and the reduction of food waste. Supermarkets’ plastics policies are shown to be generally in line with each other and the Pact, individual plastic policies, however, vary considerably. Retailers’ food waste policies are aligned with each other and with Courtauld 2030 and SDG 12.3. However, the outcomes of the UKPP are not aligned to those of Courtauld 2030 and SDG 12.3. This incoherence is being mitigated through the caveat ‘where shelf-life is unaffected in the UKPP targets to begin to harmonise the removal of consumer packaging from fresh produce in the UKPP. For the removal of consumer packaging from fresh produce to continue, food waste in the supply chain, the amount of transit packaging used, and consumers’ acceptance of buying unpackaged fresh produce must be considered. The availability of more accurate waste data and the application of techniques such as discrete event simulation modelling, combined with LCA will facilitate this.

Publication Type: Monograph (Working Paper)
Publisher Keywords: Packaging, Fresh Produce, Loose Produce, Plastics, Policy coherence, Food waste
Subjects: G Geography. Anthropology. Recreation > GE Environmental Sciences
R Medicine > RA Public aspects of medicine > RA0421 Public health. Hygiene. Preventive Medicine
Departments: School of Health & Psychological Sciences > Healthcare Services Research & Management > Food Policy
[thumbnail of Greenwood Reynolds Feb 21 2023 v5.pdf]
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