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Saturday, March 31, 2018

The first supermarket that does not use plastic

Por Nina

Humans consume 1.9 million plastic bottles a day. But not only water is sold in this material. Almost everything we buy in the super comes covered in this oil derivative. In fact, three quarters of the garbage we generate is plastic, which only takes a thousand years to decompose. For this reason, initiatives such as those of the Dutch supermarket chain Ekoplaza, which has just inaugurated the first corridor of plastic-free products in one of its stores in Amsterdam, are increasingly important. There, customers can find groceries, snacks and other miscellaneous items that are not accompanied by any plastic: the packaging is made of degradable materials, glass, metal or cardboard.

It is only the beginning, as Ekoplaza plans to expand its initiative to each of the 74 stores in the chain. And he trusts that the idea fills beyond Holland. According to the company's statement, these plastic free aisles "are a test bed for new innovative compostable biological materials". The next supermarket with a totally ecological corridor of the chain will be the one in The Hague, which will debut next June.

The executive director of Ekoplaza, Erik Does, explained that it is "an important step towards a more promising future for food and drink". In addition, he assures, these eco products will not be more expensive than the rest. Sian Sutherland, the co-founder of A Plastic Planet, a defense group that has promoted the concept, said the initiative was "a key moment in the global fight against plastic pollution." The free aisle of plastics has about 700 items, including meats, sauces, cereals, yogurts and chocolates. "It's not just an advertising strategy, it's something we've been working on for years," Erik Does, the CEO of Ekoplaza, said in an interview.

The inauguration of the aisle in the supermarket comes now that the idea of banning the plastic - or at least making a greater percentage of the material recyclable - acquires sympathizers around the world. In January, Theresa May, the UK's prime minister, called for free aisles of plastics in supermarkets through a speech describing a twenty-five year environmental plan. The same month, the European Union undertook a plan to make all plastics in the European market recyclable by 2030. "If we do not do anything about it, in fifty years we will have more plastic than fish in the oceans," then told reporters Frans Timmermans, the vice president of the European Commission, the executive body of the European Union.

Among the items that the European Union has in its sights are straws, plastic bottles, coffee cups and their covers; none of these objects were in sight for customers who searched for products in the new corridor in Amsterdam. The use of plastic packaging has become very widespread due to its practicality and its hygienic qualities. However, due to its light weight and its ability to float, along with its increasing presence in international garbage exports, plastic has become an ecological pest. "Plastic can package a person's food, but it becomes another person's problem," Sutherland said.

The proposals of the European Union and the United Kingdom came after a ban in China against all foreign imports of plastic waste, which came into force in January. Rwanda has also started a campaign that made it illegal to import, produce, use or sell plastic bags and packaging, with the exception of specific industries such as hospitals and drugs. This country is one of more than forty in the world that have banned, restricted or taxed the use of plastic bags, including France and Italy. In a study published last year, scientists estimated that there have been 8300 million metric tons of plastic worldwide since the 1950s, when plastic began to be produced on a large scale. Of that total, approximately 6300 million metric tons have been discarded, 79 percent in landfills or in other parts of the planet. Only nine percent of the discarded plastic has been recycled, according to the study, whose main author is Roland Geyer of the Bren School of Environmental Sciences and Management of the University of California, Santa Bárbara.

In the Netherlands, two years ago, free plastic bags were banned, after the European Union's disposition of phasing out was approved in 2015. At that time, the country of almost 17 million people used about 3 billion bags every year, most of which ended up in the trash. Ekoplaza has promised to expand its idea of the free aisle of plastics to its 74 stores by the end of the year. "There is no logic in wrapping something as perishable as food in a material as indestructible as plastic," added Sutherland.