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New Zealand's 'Food In The Nude' Initiative Cuts Plastic In Supermarkets

Whether you shop at a grocery store or your local farmer's market, it's always possible to reduce how much plastic you use. For instance, many places no longer sell plastic bags, or encourage you to bring your own reusable bag. However, as anyone who buys fresh produce knows all too well, plastic bags are commonly available to hold your individually picked items, such as apples or bunches of grapes. Sadly, these bags are often tossed once customers get home and put their items in the fridge or on the counter. 

New World, a supermarket chain in New Zealand, has an awesome goal. They're trying to remove all single-use plastic bags by the end of 2018. In order to achieve this, they’re giving away two million reusable bags during their summer months (which are December through February). They offer a five-cent rebate each time their customers use one of these bags, which has already resulted in plastic bag use reducing by 20 percent.

The Bishopdale location is taking things a step further by removing plastic packaging for their produce. Called “Food in the Nude,” the project features redesigned shelves that keeps fruits and vegetables cool and fresh while being out in the open. Not only does it limit plastic use, but it also keeps the produce from spoiling as quickly.

A misting system is used to keep the fruits and vegetables healthy. 99 percent of bacteria and chlorine from the water used is filtered out in the process, and it adds vitamins to the food. Since the process is unique, the store says it provides “theater” to their customers and it keeps the produce looking attractive to purchase.

“Plastic is a useful product when it comes to protecting and labelling our food, but times have changed and we are looking for ways of reducing its presence in our stores,” Nigel Bond, owner of New World Bishopdale, told Supermarket News. “We were really keen to go back to a time when you could smell the fresh citrus and spring onions when you walked into a market – and that’s what this new programme enables us to deliver.”

Some grocery stores in the United States, like Whole Foods, already have a process to mist their produce. Whole Foods banned plastic bags for over 10 years now, shifting toward reusable bags and paper bags that had messages for their customers to recycle them after use. They were the first supermarket chain to abolish them entirely in the US.

Many produce sections in supermarkets have rolls of plastic bags for customers to put their fresh fruits and vegetables in. The Bishopdale location also nixes that in favor of reusable string bags that can be used to weigh their food and transport it home. Bond said that other New World locations are looking into the process and “Wigram has adopted the same system” already.

Chances are you’ve been to a supermarket in the United States that’s already adopted new ways to display their fruits and vegetables. Adding a misting system will increase water usage, but it helps out in lowering food waste and limiting single-use plastic bags. 

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