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Norwegian Coop to remove almost 400 tonnes of plastic from fresh produce shelves

"Plastic got a terrible name when a whale, with a stomach full of plastic, washed up on the beach in Bergen. We can see this in the reactions of our customers. The aversion to plastic can now also be seen in people who never used to pay any special attention to the environment," say Jan Paul Bjørkøy and Kristine Arvin, respectively, the Director and the PR Manager at KIWI.

The supermarket chain wants to dramatically reduce the use of plastic in its 650 shops. Last year, 1.000 tonnes of plastic packaging material was used for fruit and vegetables. This has to be decreased by 200 tonnes before the end of 2020.

"Plastic is an excellent packaging material, protecting fruit and vegetables well. It must, however, be possible to reduce the amount of plastic", according to KIWI Management. By simply replacing avocados' plastic duo packaging with cardboard packaging, KIWI can reduce the annual use of plastic packaging by 30 tonnes.

Strawberries in cardboard

This summer, strawberries will also be packaged in small cardboard boxes. This will be done once the supply of plastic boxes runs out. This will reduce the use of plastic by a further 40 tonnes.

KIWI wants to get to the point in the course of the year where all plastic can be recycled. KIWI's Management emphasises that the regulations are being implemented in collaboration with the distributor, BAMA. It is, however, an initiative of KIWI and the wholesaler, Norgesgruppen.

BAMA, the largest fruit and vegetable distributor of Norway, is implementing the most significant changes. In some case, plastic remains necessary, says PR Manager, Pia Gulbrandsen: "This summer we will supply 20 million small cardboard boxes of berries to our clients. This means we will use 250 to 300 tonnes less plastic." She points out that BAMA has been experimenting with cardboard strawberry boxes for several years now. These have, up to now, not yet provided enough protection during transportation.

REMA 1000 is also making changes in this area, says PR advisor, Kaia Andresen. "Here at REMA, we are constantly working on new methods that are good for the environment, as well as for our customers. One of these is the reduction of packaging material. We are pleased that the producers are onboard with this", she says. 

BAMA delivers more than 60% of all the fruit and vegetables on the Norwegian market to supermarket chains, KIWI, Menu, Spar, Joker and REMA 1000. The switch to cardboard duo packaging for avocados will, therefore, save no less than 120 tonnes of plastic. 

Coop: Work at the shop

Coop also wants to reduce the amount of plastic used, says PR Manager, Harald Kristiansen. "We, here at Coop, recognise our responsibility in that respect. We know that there is still a lot of work to be done. Some of our products are even packaged in a double layer of plastic. This, of course, cannot continue", he says.

He adds that they do not have a clearly defined goal. The intention is to use less packaging material.

Kristiansen said that all Coop branches would replace plastic bags with paper ones. Previously, there were only a few branches were this alternative was available. 

In the first week in May, Coop and Hold Norge Rent (Keep Norway Clean) will begin a national clean-up. During this time, there will be rubbish bags and gloves in about 300 Coop shops. Customers can use these to take part in the campaign.

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