No more plastic on British cucumbers during UK season

There will be no more plastic on cucumbers at the British retailer Morrisons. Even though the plastic layer is important for a longer shelf life, the retailer gets rid of the plastic during the British growing season. "The cucumbers are very quickly transported from farm to store. We believe there will be enough natural shelf life for customers without any need for packaging."

Plastic pollution
Earlier this year, in April, Morrisons announced the start of the UK Plastics Pact - a number of measures to reduce plastic pollution. The retailer declared they'd be working through all of their own brand products to identify, reduce and remove any unnecessary plastic packaging as well as trialling the effect of removing plastic packaging from fruit and vegetables in a number of stores. "We'll look at how plastic packaging, which keeps food fresh, can be reduced without increasing food waste."

The 'naked' cucumber seems to be a result of this. "We're stripping the plastic off most of our cucumbers during the British growing season as part of our ongoing plastic reduction programme", the supermarket announced this week, and explained their decision to their customers.

Shelf life
"Cucumbers have typically been sold in plastic to improve life in the fridge and in the supply chain. The plastic layer serves as an extra 'skin' to prevent the veggie's dehydration, which is important because they are typically more than 90% water.
However, during the British growing season from March to October, where cucumbers are very quickly transported from farm to store, we believe there will be enough natural shelf life for customers without any need for packaging. "

The move does not apply to half cucumbers, which would see a dramatic reduction in shelf life if plastic packaging was taken off.

“We’ve listened to customers' concerns and we are doing what we can to remove plastic packaging. While plastic can serve a purpose we believe this move will remove it from the environment without leading to food waste”, Richard Hatherly, Senior Buying Manager for Salads at Morrisons adds. "the new move will apply to all our whole standard-size cucumbers, having listened to customers who say reducing plastic should be one of our top priorities."

(No) packaging innovations
Within the UK Plastics Pact, further actions were announced to reduce plastic. These included the possibility for customers to bring their own container to several store parts, the removal of plastic drinking straws from the shelves as well as cotton buds with plastic stems and the end of selling 5p single-use carrier bags. In future they've declared to focus on making more packaging recyclable (no more black plastic trays for fresh meat and fish) and including drinking water fountains in new stores. "We're making a promise that, by no later than 2025, all of our own-brand plastic packaging will be reusable, recyclable or compostable."

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