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In 2030, there should be no plastic for fruit and vegetables - but it could lead to more food waste, experts say.

DR-Inland in Denmark

Wednesday, May 15, 2024 • 5:00 PM UTC - in Denmark

When you stand in the produce section of a supermarket and plan to buy salad or berries, you often find that they are packaged in plastic. But this should end by 2030, as new EU rules aim to reduce plastic use and promote packaging reuse.

Only products that can be damaged without packaging are exempt from the law. However, this could lead to more food waste, as warned by CSR Chief Thomas Roland in a debate article in Altinget ().

-- Ban on plastic packaging for fruit and vegetables --

- Packaging for unprocessed fresh fruit and vegetables

- Packaging for food and beverages filled and consumed in cafes and restaurants

- Individual portions (of spices, sauces, butter, and sugar)

- Miniature packaging for toilet articles in hotels

- Thin plastic carrier bags (under 15 micrometers)

Source: European Parliament ()

If you ask Merete Edelenbos, who is a lecturer at the Food Science Institute at Aarhus University, a ban on plastic packaging for fruit and vegetables could lead to more food waste.

- Most products that are packaged in plastic today need to be packaged - at least in Denmark, she says.

Merete Edelenbos points to salads and cabbage as some of the vegetables that quickly spoil or dry out if not packaged in plastic bags.

-- Environmental impact --

More food could end up in landfills as waste if not packaged correctly, as Lars Germann, center chief at the Technical University, also points out.

- When you first produce food, you can ensure that it actually becomes food and not waste by packaging it correctly, he says.

The environmental impact of producing a food item is primarily due to the food production itself. (Photo: © Mads Claus Rasmussen/Ritzau Scanpix)

Approximately 80% of the climate impact of a food item comes from its production, about 15% comes from transport and distribution, and 5% comes from packaging, according to Lars Germann.

- When the food is first produced, you have already used 95% of the environmental impact. So you need to make sure it doesn't go to waste, otherwise you've had an environmental impact for no benefit, he says.

In Denmark, private households throw away 247,000 tons of food as waste each year, according to figures from the Danish Food Agency. This accounts for about 30% of the total food waste in Denmark.

-- No alternatives to plastic --

There is currently no product on the market that can replace plastic, but work is being done on it, Lars Germann explains. For example, at the Technical University, where they are working on developing a fiber packaging that might replace some types of plastic bags.

Merete Edelenbos suggests that if we want to reduce plastic consumption, we can use less and thinner types of packaging.

Additionally, using fewer different types of plastic bags for fruit and vegetables could make it easier to reuse them.

-- Promoting new solutions? --

Yes, it can be said that the law can help promote new solutions.

- But the problem is, if it becomes law that you can't package fruit and vegetables in plastic, what options do we as a society have for the intelligent choice? It doesn't help to remove one problem and create a much larger problem, namely that food waste explodes even more. That's stupid, says Merete Edelenbos.

The legislation was passed in the EU parliament in April, but the European Council still needs to formally approve the legislation before it can take effect.

Warning: This article was translated by a Large Language Model, in case of doubt, you can always visit the original source.