Big three plastic abusers ripped by greens

Yata, Taste and Wellcome have been named by Greeners Action as the top three supermarkets with excessive plastic packaging for fresh fruits and vegetables - same as a similar survey six years ago.

Stella Wong

Friday, July 12, 2019

Yata, Taste and Wellcome have been named by Greeners Action as the top three supermarkets with excessive plastic packaging for fresh fruits and vegetables - same as a similar survey six years ago.

The green group surveyed eight supermarket chains from April to June to observe how 10 common fresh fruits and vegetables are packaged, such as bananas, apples, lettuce and potatoes.

The group found that it is common for supermarkets to sell fresh produce wrapped in plastic unnecessarily - and the problem has not improved over the last six years.

Over 90 percent of fruits and vegetables are packaged with plastic wrap, cling film or plastic trays. Even fruits with hard shells like pineapples and coconuts are wrapped in plastic.

The study showed that all chains - except Kai Bo Food Supermarket - have abused plastic.

Among the top three supermarkets for excessive packaging, YATA topped the list with a 100 percent packaging rate, followed by Wellcome and Taste.

The group said since Kai Bo can sell fruits and vegetables without plastic wrapping, it means packaging is not necessary to prevent fresh produce from being damaged during transportation.

Vicki Wong Pui-chi, the group's senior public affairs officer, said Hong Kong supermarkets have a "plastic addiction."

She added: "Retailers may think that customers prefer decent packaging. Sometimes there is no packaging on the fresh produce when they arrive at supermarkets, and they arrange staff to wrap each item with plastic so that they can sell it at a higher price.

"But, in fact, customers do not appreciate over-packaging as they cannot touch or smell the real product to examine whether they are fresh or not, nor check the quality of each produce in the bundled package."

In addition, Wong said plastic packaging prevents water evaporation, accelerating the rate of mold and shorten the shelf lives of produce.

She added that not only will the plastic waste add to the burden at landfills, it also releases methane during decomposition, which accelerates global warming.

Moreover, when the municipal solid waste charging mechanism is implemented in the future, the excessive plastic packaging will incur a higher cost for customers when they dispose of their waste.

The group called on supermarkets to review their policy and stop unnecessary plastic packaging.

For example, they can hang bananas up instead of wrapping them with layers of plastic.

It also suggested that supermarkets follow overseas examples to set up plastic-free aisles that display products without any plastic packaging.

Yata, Wellcome and A S Watson Group, which owns Taste and ParknShop, said they are reviewing their policies to reduce the use of plastic.

stellast.wong@singtaonewscorp.com