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Idealog—in the ideas business

Foodstuffs shamed over excessive produce packaging

Foodstuffs is the winner of this year's dubious Worst Packaging Award for putting vegetables on polystyrene meat trays and wrapping them in plastic.

More than 10,000 votes decided the Unpackit Best and Worst Packaging Awards for 2012, which Unpackit spokesperson Sophie Ward said showed that people really care about packaging and its impact on the environment.

“The plastic-wrapped vegetables on a meat-tray just managed to beat the individually wrapped prunes to take the Worst Packaging title, but there were only a few votes in it,” she said. “There’s a lot of ridiculous packaging out there, so it’s quite an achievement to be voted the worst packaging in New Zealand.”

Foodstuffs New Zealand executive manager Melissa Hodd said it had set up a sustainability programme.

“Reducing the amount of polystyrene packaging used and identifying more sustainable alternatives is already a priority for this group, and receiving the Unpackit Award for Worst Packaging further solidifies our need to focus on this area of the business.”

Foodstuffs accepted it had a responsibility as a large retailer to try harder to reduce the amount of polystyrene packaging used by its stores, she said.

Ward said while Foodstuffs was not the only retailer putting vegetables on meat trays, it had won the award because the original nomination from the public was for one of its stores: Franz Josef Four Square.

“Meat trays can’t be recycled in most places in New Zealand, so both the cling film and the meat trays go straight to the landfill. The most frustrating thing is that fruit and vegetables like carrots, parsnips, courgettes, grapes and avocadoes don’t need to be wrapped, they come with their own skins which protect them just fine. Packaging them is completely unnecessary and a waste of resources.”

Foodstuffs also won third place in the Worst Packaging Award for its meat multi-packs: four separately wrapped pieces of meat on meat-trays placed on a bigger tray and wrapped in more plastic.

Ward said getting rid of polystyrene trays for meat packaging was a lot harder as there were not many alternatives that can deal with the blood.

"However I have seen chicken sold in recyclable plastic trays, and there are some new compostable materials which might be viable in the near future.”

 The Best Packaging Award went to Bin Inn, with 33 stores that sell unpackaged products from self selection bins.

"'Pay for product not packaging’ is central to the Bin Inn concept," said Bin Inn Retail Group Co-operative general manager Nicolette Hale.

“At Bin Inn we try and help customers reduce their packaging waste by encouraging customers to bring in their own bottles and containers to refill from the self selection bins and barrels."

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Apples and oranges really…Rather silly comparing meat trays with dry goods in bulk bins- inherently quite different storage & handling requirements. Besides supermarkets have bulk bins too don't they, not just Bin Inn. Why don't you compare the deli serve over with the meat trays…you pick your meat from behind the counter and they wrap it in a thin plastic bag and/ or brown paper- much less packaging and all recyclable I imagine. Then you can compare the aisles and aisles of pre-packaged cereals/ baking ingredients and dry goods with the bulk bins. Apples vs apples.

(BTW those segmented lunchboxes are great- saves lots of clingfilm/ foil etc)

Cameron Robertson
Cameron Robertson

It must have been such a terrible embarassment to have received this particular award. After having their reputation tarnished, it is just appropriate for them to improve on their bad packaging issue. It is not only good for their image but for the environment too. Their food storage techniques need to change soon and save them from further probe from environmental enthusiasts and reduce costs too.

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