Plus Supermarket works around the European Ban on single-use plastics

Amsterdam, May 23, 2019 — Europe forbids its member-states from selling single-use plastic cutlery (forks, knives, spoons, chopsticks). This is one of the measures that ware mentioned in the new guidelines for single-use plastics. The Directive of the European Parliament and of the Council on the Reduction of the Impact of Certain Plastic Products on the Environment, as the guidelines are officially called, was definitively approved this month now that the European Council has also approved of it. Selling disposable cutlery is therefore prohibited as of 2021. Despite this impending ban, the Dutch supermarket PLUS has already found a way to circumvent the prohibition by marketing plastic cutlery as an environmentally friendly “washable” product. 

Background of the Directive
In order to prevent the exponentially-increasing amount of plastic in the environment, Europe has adopted new rules. These new rules prohibit the use of certain single-use products if there are alternatives. The prohibited products are those which are often found in the environment, such as disposable cutlery; plastic forks, spoons, and knives are often found in places where people picnic, such as on beaches and in parks. The new regulation seeks to eliminate plastic products that are usually thrown away after being used just once or twice — they may no longer be sold as of 2021.
PLUS Supermarket
PLUS Supermarket’s marketers claim that the company is striving to minimize its impact on the environment and touts its corporate social responsibility program. One might, therefore, expect that PLUS brand plastic cutlery — in anticipation of the forthcoming plastic ban — would be removed from shelves. Instead, the brand is suddenly presenting their plastic cutlery as a “sustainable” product that would benefit the environment. It is an embarrassment.

Are Dutch supermarkets going to close the plastics value chain, with a first link in Spain?

Amsterdam, 28 February 2019 – Plastic users, such as supermarkets, committed themselves with the Plastics Pact to closing the plastics value chain and create a circular economy for plastics. Closing the plastics value chain should prevent plastics from entering the environment. The Dutch supermarkets that signed the pact are Albert Heijn, Jumbo, Lidl, Aldi en Ekoplaza. These companies often import fruit and vegetables from Spain, mainly from Spanish region Almería in Andalusia.

Almería, located on the coast of the Mediterranean Sea in the southeast of Spain, is one of the largest vegetable exporters in Europe. In the period of 2017-2018, the acreage of greenhouses increased with nearly 2% to 31,614 hectares in this region. And unlike the Dutch greenhouses, Spanish greenhouses are not made from glass but from plastic. This plasticulture is nicknamed the plastic sea, ‘Mar de Plástico’, and is one of the few man-made constructions visible from outer space.

So, a lot plastic waste is already created at the start of the production chain. And not just when greenhouses are damaged or destroyed, like during heavy hail storms or tornados. Some growers dump their plastic waste illegally in dry riverbeds; this has dramatic consequences for the plastic soup, because all this plastic washes directly into the sea after heavy rainfall. Spanish environmental organizations made a video of rivers of flowing plastic, which went viral. They demand action from the authorities: enforcement should be increased, recycling facilities expanded and the cleanup of riverbeds prioritized.
By signing the Plastics Pact, Dutch supermarket chains promised to create a circular economy for plastics. But does this promise only apply to their stores in the Netherlands? Or does it also apply to imported products, which are sold in Dutch supermarkets? What changes will these supermarkets make? Will they hold exporters accountable to a certain standard and control them to check if these standards are met? Will they combine their efforts to guarantee that the fruit and vegetables sold in their supermarkets do not add to the Spanish Plastic Soup crisis? Or will they evade their responsibility and declare that their producers are all paragons of plastic recycling?

Maria Westerbos, director of the Plastic Soup Foundation: “We are looking forward to the steps and initiatives that Dutch supermarkets will implement to stop the plastic soup crisis, and not only at the end of the plastics value chain, but especially at the producers’ side of the chain, which is the beginning of this chain.”

Also read: Plastic Soup Foundation does not sign plastic pact

FRANCOBLOGGO II: Plastic at the supermarket

Tjena! Sean Bean the drummer of Francobollo here, its now my turn to talk about the journey into a more plastic free lifestyle! Yay!

So starting out this month me and my girlfriend Aspen made a point of unwrapping any items in the supermarket that didn’t need it and leaving it there to highlight the fact that it’s not necessary and in a lot of cases unwanted. A sort of mini-protest to say ‘you guys deal with it’!

On our very first visit, here’s what happened; we did our normal shopping and on this particular visit it was my turn to buy toilet roll for the house (I live with 4 other people). My girlfriend is a major fan of monkey nuts so that was in there too, and when we got to the self-checkout we started unwrapping everything and leaving it in a basket on the side. The Swede in me was cringing at every rip as we have a tendency to feel very embarrassed when we leave something for someone else to deal with. Towards the end of our unpacking i started to feel a little bit better knowing it was for a good cause and I just needed to buck up and get on with it, after all this is our planet we are doing this for!

We brought a tote bag to carry everything in, so as to not accumulate yet another plastic bag, which would have inevitably ended up in some crevice in my room somewhere not to be seen again until the day we move out. Aspen went on to open the monkey nuts and pour them into the bag all over the toilet roll, and at that very moment i realised that my roommate is allergic to nuts!

So now we have a whole pack of bog roll in my room that only we can use in fear of killing my roommate with an allergic reaction…

In the frenzy of making the world a better place, keep in mind sometimes that the plastic that is around us has kept these anxious thoughts completely at bay and is a testament to the apathy we are falling into as a result! The more i think about it, the comforts of our time seem to inhibit our thinking about our surroundings and being aware of its big and small scale effects on it.

In short, it’s pretty hard to be aware and take action! We all need regular reminding until it’s a thing of the past! Next time we go grocery shopping I’ll be sure to bring a little nut basket to keep it all separate!

To be continued…


Follow Francobollo on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook!