Foodstuffs shamed over excessive produce packaging

Foodstuffs is the winner of this year's dubious Worst Packaging Award for putting vegetables on polystyrene meat trays and wrapping them in plastic.

More than 10,000 votes decided the Unpackit Best and Worst Packaging Awards for 2012, which Unpackit spokesperson Sophie Ward said showed that people really care about packaging and its impact on the environment.

“The plastic-wrapped vegetables on a meat-tray just managed to beat the individually wrapped prunes to take the Worst Packaging title, but there were only a few votes in it,” she said. “There’s a lot of ridiculous packaging out there, so it’s quite an achievement to be voted the worst packaging in New Zealand.”

Foodstuffs New Zealand executive manager Melissa Hodd said it had set up a sustainability programme.

“Reducing the amount of polystyrene packaging used and identifying more sustainable alternatives is already a priority for this group, and receiving the Unpackit Award for Worst Packaging further solidifies our need to focus on this area of the business.”

Foodstuffs accepted it had a responsibility as a large retailer to try harder to reduce the amount of polystyrene packaging used by its stores, she said.

Ward said while Foodstuffs was not the only retailer putting vegetables on meat trays, it had won the award because the original nomination from the public was for one of its stores: Franz Josef Four Square.

“Meat trays can’t be recycled in most places in New Zealand, so both the cling film and the meat trays go straight to the landfill. The most frustrating thing is that fruit and vegetables like carrots, parsnips, courgettes, grapes and avocadoes don’t need to be wrapped, they come with their own skins which protect them just fine. Packaging them is completely unnecessary and a waste of resources.”

Foodstuffs also won third place in the Worst Packaging Award for its meat multi-packs: four separately wrapped pieces of meat on meat-trays placed on a bigger tray and wrapped in more plastic.

Ward said getting rid of polystyrene trays for meat packaging was a lot harder as there were not many alternatives that can deal with the blood.

"However I have seen chicken sold in recyclable plastic trays, and there are some new compostable materials which might be viable in the near future.”

 The Best Packaging Award went to Bin Inn, with 33 stores that sell unpackaged products from self selection bins.

"'Pay for product not packaging’ is central to the Bin Inn concept," said Bin Inn Retail Group Co-operative general manager Nicolette Hale.

“At Bin Inn we try and help customers reduce their packaging waste by encouraging customers to bring in their own bottles and containers to refill from the self selection bins and barrels."

WORST: Plastic wrapped vegetables on a meat tray – Foodstuffs Produce sold this way includes parsnips, carrots, courgettes, grapes, and avocados, WORST: Individually wrapped prunes – Sunsweet Ones Individually wrapped prunes, contained in a non-recyclable tube, wrapped in plastic WORST: Worst - Meat tray madness Four pieces of meat all pre-packaged in meat-trays, then packaged on a big meat tray and wrapped in more plastic WORST: Barbie Excessive packaging, plastic type is not identified so can’t be recycled. WORST - Disposable coffee cup 100 million disposable cups go to landfill in NZ every year WORST: Shapes Multi-Pack by Arnotts The same crackers are sold in a larger cardboard box, and can be put into individual containers for lunches, avoiding litter and extra waste. WORST: Oral B toothbrush heads Large amount of packaging for two tiny toothbrush heads, plastic cover has no plastic identification number WORST: Fantastic Noodles in a Cup Disposable polystyrene cup going to landfill in most towns, can use own cup. BEST: Bulk bin stores – Bin Inn Their bulk bin system is set up to encourage shoppers to reuse their own containers for a large range of products. BEST: Compostable takeaway tray – Potatopak New Zealand madetake-away container made from waste potato starch, compostable at home or in an industrial compost. BEST: Nude Food lunchbox All plastic components are stamped with recycling identification number. BEST: Celcius Ideal Cup Designed to be taken into cafés and refilled over and over again. BEST: Ecostore Auto Dishwash tablets These tablets are individually wrapped in a PVA biodegradable wrapper that dissolves in the dishwasher. BEST: Chux Biodegradable Superwipes Packaging for this product is made entirely from cardboard (100% recyclable) with cut-away section to see the superwipes. BEST: Apple iPhone 4 Packaging is almost entirely recyclable, and the cardboard box is made from 90% recycled content. BEST: Caffe Prima compostable coffee bag The New Zealand-made compostable bag meets European compostability standards for industrial composting.

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