Earlier this year a group of concerned citizens launched a petition urging supermarkets to reduce their reliance on plastics. We followed up on the story.

At the time of writing the petition has received just over 10,000 signatures. RTL Today decided to follow up on this public outcry and get the supermarkets’ perspective on their use of plastic. Two national chains, Cactus and Colruyt, agreed to answer a few questions.

Why are so many fruits and vegetables wrapped in plastic?

Cactus answered that many of their customers still want their fruits and vegetables wrapped in plastic for a variety of reasons: “for some it is more an issue of hygiene and quality, for others it’s simply more convenient because they don’t have to stand in the line to use the scales.” They also stressed that plastic wrapping allows them to reduce their reliance on scales altogether, but that they are actively looking for alternatives to conventional plastic wrappings.

Colruyt, meanwhile, stressed that they try to offer ‘loose’ fruits and vegetables to the highest extent possible. However, they too noted that plastic lends convenience as well as longer preservation: “for example, research has shown that a cucumber stays fresh for 11 days longer when it is wrapped in plastic.”

Why are “bio” (organic) fruits and vegetables, specifically, often wrapped in plastic?

Both Cactus and Colruyt provided the same answer to this question. According to Colruyt’s representative, “the most important reason is that we are obliged to make a separation between Bio products and conventional vegetables and fruits, in order to avoid any contamination. There needs to be a clear distinction for clients, especially in areas where a large amount of these products is offered to clients “loose”."

The Cactus representative also added that ‘bio’ fruits from Biogros are packaged using recyclable cardboard and ‘compostable film’.

Have you taken any steps to reduce your use of plastic packaging, bags and wrappings?

Cactus’ representative stated that they are constantly seeking environmentally friendly alternatives to plastic packaging. As an example, he noted that their “veggie-bag”, available at their fruit and vegetable counters, can be washed and reused. They also offer “new biodegradable plastic bags specifically designed for fruit and vegetable shopping,” which are made in Europe from GMO-free corn starch. These are currently being trialled in Bereldange, Merl, Limpertsberg, Bettembourg, and Belle Etoile.

Colruyt’s representative said that they have a plan in place which means that all of their own-brand (Boni) products’ packaging will be reviewed by the end of 2021. They have a policy in place whereby they aim to reduce all of their primary, secondary, and tertiary packaging: “The question we ask ourselves is: can we do without this packaging for a given product. If we cannot, then, we look at whether this packaging can be reduced to the maximum, but always taking into account its primary functions (conservation, transportation, protection) and the impact on food wastage.”

Colruyt also aim to use as much recyclable, recycled, reusable, and renewable material as possible for their packaging, and as of 2017 they recycle 82.71% of their company waste. Finally, they do not offer any checkout bags, instead giving their clients the option of using boxes made from recycled cardboard or bringing their own reusable bags.