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Though the harmful effects of plastic on wildlife and human health are well-documented, the versatile material is hard to avoid. Nearly everything we touch, from grocery bags to drink bottles to food packaging, contains plastic. Now, Amsterdam’s Ekoplaza supermarket is making it a little easier for consumers to reduce consumption of single-use bags and containers, which are clogging our landfills at alarming rates, with a dedicated plastic-free aisle. Believed to be the world’s first, it features 700 products, including rice, beans, yogurt, chocolate milk, cereal, snacks, and even meat.
While items still require packaging, everything is housed inside reusable or recyclable containers made of glass, metal, cardboard, and a compostable plastic-resembling biofilm material. The unique idea was proposed to the grocery-chain officials by UK-based environmental group A Plastic Planet, which is leading the charge to advocate for at least one plastic-free aisle in supermarkets around the globe. The non-profit has even created a signature “plastic-free” mark to help consumers identify eco-friendly packaging. “This is a consumer-led campaign,” said group co-founder Sian Sutherland. “We’re a grassroots organization. So obviously we’re working with industry, and we’re working with the government, but most importantly, we represent the public.”
Ekoplaza, which plans to roll out the plastic-free aisles across its 74 stores by the end of the year, is not the only company trying to reduce plastic waste. In Berlin, the Original Unverpackt grocery store has been trying to change customer habits since 2014 by selling everything, from grains to produce and even lotions and soaps, in bulk. The supermarket, which requires customers to bring their own reusable containers, even carries chewable toothpaste that eliminates the need for a tube.
Though it is encouraging to see companies trying to make a difference, for real change to happen, consumers have to lead the charge by shunning products encased in the polymer, even if it means giving up their favorite food or drink. As Sutherland succinctly put it, “Plastic food and drink packaging remains useful for a matter of days yet remains a destructive presence on the earth for centuries afterwards.”
Resources: Fastcompany.com, theguardian.com