Sell fresh fruit and veg loose to cut our carbon footprint

 In Case Study

Research which has shown that fresh fruit and vegetables should be sold loose and without best-before labels to reduce plastic packaging, prevent waste and cut emissions has been welcomed by a Midlands green expert.

Ron Fox was commenting on a government funded study which shows that this would reduce the £2.1 billion worth of fresh food wasted in homes every year which ends up in landfill sites where it rots and releases methane, a powerful greenhouse gas.

“It would encourage people to buy only the quantity they need and stop them throwing away food that is good to eat,” said Ron, of Noreus Ltd.

The Waste and Resources Action Programme (WRAP) tested over 18 months five commonly wasted items — apples, bananas, broccoli, cucumber and potatoes — in the original packaging and loose and stored at different temperatures. 

They found that selling them loose and removing best-before dates could result in a combined saving of about 100,000 tonnes of household food waste, more than 10,300 tonnes of plastic and the equivalent to 130,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide.

Researchers found that while packaging is important and often has a critical role protecting food, it does not help to preserve fresh produce, contrary to what many people think.

Wrapping apples, potatoes and cucumbers in plastic packaging had little or no impact on their shelf life. However, it improved packaged bananas by about two days, but this was negated by two thirds of people removing the covering as soon as they got home. 

They also said it was important for retailers and customers to keep fresh produce in a refrigerator set at below 5C with apples stored at 4C showing no signs of deterioration until two and a half months after their best-before date and still good to eat much longer after that. 

Packaging increased the shelf life of broccoli by seven days, but storing it at below 5C meant there were no signs of deterioration until more than two weeks after the best-before date. 

However, potatoes should be stored in a cool, dry, dark place, ideally in a cloth bag and away from strong-smelling foods such as onions.

WRAP’s findings have been shared with the UK’s largest food retailers and the charity will be consulting over the next couple of months with the Food Standards Agency, Defra and industry leaders over their recommendations.

“This research shows that retailers must be encouraged to sell fruit and veg loose and to remove date labels where possible,” said Ron on the University of Keele Science and Innovation Park in North Staffordshire. 

Also, customers need to understand the benefits of storing more fresh produce in the fridge below 5C, except onions, bananas and whole fresh pineapple.

“The net benefit to the environment of stopping throwing away good food   would save the equivalent of at least 17 million tonnes of carbon dioxide.  

Making real progress in tackling food waste and plastic pollution this move will help to save the planet and shoppers to cut their food bills.”

For those wanting more advice on cutting back on food waste and green energy call Ron on 0845 474 6641. 

Caption:  Research has shown that fresh fruit and vegetables should be sold loose and without best-before labels to reduce plastic packaging, prevent waste and cut emissions and cut shoppers’ bills.

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