The 24th Aecoc Fruit and Vegetable Congress held in Valencia has served as a meeting point for the Spanish fruit and vegetable sector, which faces the challenge of adapting to new legislation on circular economy and packaging that will enter into force in a few months.
During the round table organized to address the impact of the regulations, Alejandro Martínez, director of health, sustainability, and quality at Eroski, stated that the new Royal Decree on Packaging and Packaging Waste that penalizes the use of plastic packaging and expands the sale of fruits and vegetables in bulk will have effects on costs and consumption. Part of these effects will be counterproductive for the sustainability that this legislation is intended to achieve, such as the increase in food waste that will be generated and a decrease in fruit consumption compared to other processed products that are not affected by the new restrictions.
"It will decrease fruit consumption because there are people who will not have time to weigh it." Martínez considered that there are other categories where the overpack that the law intends to decrease is greater than in this segment, in which the weight of the brands and their differentiation is less. "There are other alternative desserts, such as yogurt, that are packaged and that will be more convenient to purchase than fresh fruit because of this law," he stated.
Martinez regretted the law didn't include alternative packaging options. "It's either bulk or nothing. That's excessive," he said. According to their data, in their case, more than 60% of sales were already in bulk, and they estimate that it will now increase by more than 10 points. This will force the markets to rethink the fruit and vegetable section and to increase the scales for the weight of the products in bulk.
In addition, he said, there will be an increase in losses of products in which packaging is essential for it to reach the consumer in good condition, such as strawberries.
Maria Forcada, director of R&D and Quality at Verdifresh, a producer specializing in ready-to-eat salads that belongs to the Foodiverse group, highlighted this point. "Containers protect products, so the actual deterioration of the products will be greater than the theoretical deterioration," she said, presenting some examples of this greater food waste. "If a cherry tomato explodes in a box, the whole box will have to be removed," she said. "Another concern is traceability. Today packaging is basic in this type of product," she added.