Do we want to shop without packaging in the supermarket?

Do we want to shop without packaging in the supermarket?

Take some thought before you go to the supermarket. Do you have everything? Wallet, check. Shopping bag, check. Deposit bottles, check. Empty (soft) drink cartons were added in April, and at Jumbo and Albert Heijn, among others, you now also have to bring your own bag for fruit and vegetables, because the free plastic bags are no longer available.

If it’s up to supermarkets, we also take glass or plastic jars that we immediately fill with all kinds of non-perishable products. Albert Heijn wants to use twenty million kilos less packaging material by 2025. Part of this reduction is due to the responsibility of the producer, who must look for alternative packaging. But the customer must also contribute.

Since April 2020, customers have been able to purchase seventy different products without packaging, provided they bring their own packaging. They pay per gram. Albert Heijn plans to roll out the trial, which started with three AH XLs in Rotterdam, Amsterdam and Leidschendam, to fifty stores in 2021.

Little enthusiasm among consumers

However, it seems that consumers hardly want to bring the jar from home to the supermarket. It was supposed to be rolled out to 50 stores in 2023.

At the moment, only two Albert Heijn stores have been added, a spokesperson for RTL Z said. However, the range in those stores in The Hague and Arnhem is limited. “Not a six-metre wall containing all types of packaging-free products, but a two-metre wall containing only the most relevant range. This provides more of an overview and makes the choice easier.”

Seventy products are still on display in the three original XL stores. Modifications have been made.

Technical improvements

“There are a number of technical improvements that make the concept even more user-friendly. The vibration function ensures that the products come out of the tube more easily and reduces the risk of sticking to compound products such as granola. The clamp control has been improved for greater precision,” said company spokesman Anoesjka Aspeslagh. In each tube so customers can fill it and see how much has been used.”

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Biggest difference for the customer: Experimental paper bags were added as a temporary solution because bringing your own packaging is not yet automatic.

There are no figures yet on whether customers are now buying more packaging-free products.

Refill detergent at the store

Lidl now also wants customers to take refillable containers with them into the store. In this case it is about reusable packaging for detergents developed by the retail chain itself. Refilling stations for four types of private-brand detergents were installed in ten stores.

At the stations, you can choose colour, white or black detergent or fabric softener with just the push of a button. “At checkout, you’ll get 25 percent off the second time you fill the bag,” says a company spokesperson. The store wants to encourage customers to choose recyclable packaging.

The package contains a smart cover. This prevents distributing a large amount of detergent and causing a mess. The smart cover also measures the number of times the bag has been refilled. The display shows how much plastic the customer has already saved.

The record stands at 25 packs

Upon first use, customers purchasing detergent save between 16 and 23 grams of plastic, because refillable bags contain less plastic than hard plastic bottles. According to the supermarket chain, with refills, they saved between 23.2 and 47.4 grams of plastic.

This increases if you recycle the bottle often. In the UK, the introduction of the refilling machine was trialled at three Lidl branches. 68 percent of customers who purchased a refillable bag later returned to refill it. The record for the number of fillings per bag is now 25 fillings.

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However, the machines need maintenance, they consume electricity and need to be cleaned regularly. The device can also malfunction and need to be replaced. This produces waste. Despite these drawbacks, the sustainability gain is greater than the loss, according to Lidl.

Scale is important

How do experts view the environmental footprint of such a machine? “Many studies have been done on reusing packaging versus single use,” says Marcel Keuwenhoff of the Knowledge Institute for Sustainable Packaging. “You always save packaging materials. But how sustainable such an initiative is also depends on the scale.”

Having one mechanic drive a car from north to south across the country to repair or service one machine is not very sustainable. If he visits fifteen stores on his way, it means he is already more sustainable.

“This is also the case if you reuse packaging, as we do now with beer bottles, for example. If they are cleaned by hand, it is much less sustainable than if they were put in the washing machine by the millions.”

Depending on consumer behavior

More important is consumer behavior. Do consumers think about the refillable bag when they buy detergent? Kewenhof: “A refillable bag contains less plastic than a hard plastic detergent bottle. So, in terms of material use, it is always more sustainable to use this refillable bag. But there is a difference whether you only use this bag five times or not.” A hundred times before it is discarded. “You can save more plastic every time.”

If the consumer used a new refillable bag every time, the environmental benefit would be much smaller. Dutch consumers – with the exception of a few Dark Green Knights – seem not to be thinking sustainably yet, given resistance to sediment on cans and resistance to the plastic tax, among other things.

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“It takes time. There was also resistance to the smoking ban on the train and now we don’t know any better,” Koenhof said.

Even if consumers don’t want to, we’ll probably have to. Europe is working on issuing new legislation.

Fifteen percent less waste in 2040

At the end of last year, the European Commission presented a proposal to restrict packaging waste. The Packaging and Packaging Waste Regulation (PWWR) stipulates that each Member State must reduce the amount of packaging waste per capita compared to 2018. By 5 percent in 2030, 10 percent in 2035 and 15 percent in 2040. To achieve this, among other things More systems will be introduced that make reuse possible.

“This draft law is now being studied and commented on by member states. There is strong pressure from companies that manufacture packaging materials, so the targets could be relaxed. But in the end we will have to recycle and reuse more packaging materials,” he says. Kewenhof.

Make it easier for consumers

The essence of achieving goals: they must be made easy for the consumer. No one wants to return to the store with a leaky bag.

“So you have to develop high-quality packaging that will last a long time. In the world of cosmetics, we already see creams in refill form, where the more expensive, luxurious main packaging can be refilled over and over again with a simple refill. These refills are also cheaper and therefore popular. Popular with consumers.

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