A supermarket in Amsterdam opened Wednesday with an aisle that has more than 700 grocery items — and no plastic.
The store, Ekoplaza, said it is the first of its kind to have an entire aisle without plastic packaging. Instead, food is displayed in glass, metal and cardboard containers, as well as materials that can be composted.
While some of the packaging may look plastic, it’s actually a biofilm made of trees and plants that will break down within 12 weeks in a home composter.
The products in the plastic-free section include: meat, rice, sauces, milk, chocolate, yogurt and fresh fruit and vegetables.
Environmentalists on social media celebrated the move.
Ekoplaza said that by the end of the year, all 74 of its stores across the Netherlands will have a plastic-free aisle. The next store to roll out the eco-friendly aisle is in The Hague, which is expected to debut in June. The aisles will be a “test bed” for packaging materials that are able to be composted, according to a news release from the store.
“Plastic-free aisles are an important steppingstone to a brighter future for food and drink,” said Ekoplaza chief executive Erik Does in a statement.
Just weeks ago, British Prime Minister Theresa May floated the idea of plastic-free supermarket aisles as part of her green agenda.
The idea came to Ekoplaza from the environmental group A Plastic Planet. The group has developed a plastic-free mark so shoppers can quickly identify products that have no plastic.
“There is absolutely no logic in wrapping something as fleeting as food in something as indestructible as plastic,” said Sian Sutherland, co-founder of A Plastic Planet, in a statement. “Plastic food and drink packaging remains useful for a matter of days yet remains a destructive presence on the earth for centuries afterwards.”
Across the globe, people use more than a million plastic bottles each minute, mostly for drinking water, according to Ekoplaza’s website. Less than 9 percent of those bottles are recycled.
Sutherland encouraged other grocery stores to also “turn off the plastic tap.”
“For decades shoppers have been sold the lie that we can’t live without plastic in food and drink,” she said. “A plastic-free aisle dispels all that. Finally we can see a future where the public have a choice about whether to buy plastic or plastic free.”
But Jessica Green, assistant professor of environmental studies at New York University, cautioned that “sustainable consumerism” has its limits, and said what is needed is government regulation.
“Sure, it’s great to consume less plastic when you make decisions about what to consume at the supermarket,” she said. “But that’s not going to fix the problem.”
Anne R. Kapuscinski, professor of sustainability science at Dartmouth College, said the amount of plastics people use across the globe is “terribly harmful” to the planet. She said plastic often ends up in the oceans, harming birds, fish and other species. Even recycling, she said, uses a great deal of energy.
She said she hopes the Ekoplaza experiment shows that people will buy food if it’s not wrapped in plastic.
“I hear people say that consumers want this much plastic,” she said. “But I’m not convinced of that.”