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This is the first supermarket to completely ditch plastic.

It may look like your typical supermarket — but there is something very strange about Ekoplaza in central Amsterdam. There’s everything you’d expect from your local food store: fruit, vegetables, packaged meat and shelves stacked high with everyday products from beans to bread. But not all is as it seems in the tiny 646-square-foot shop,...
Time: 15:58     Date: 13.03.2018
US Living News: This is the first supermarket to completely ditch plastic. NY Post 24 - US News

There’s everything you’d expect from your local food store: fruit, vegetables, packaged meat and shelves stacked high with everyday products from beans to bread.

But not all is as it seems in the tiny 646-square-foot shop, tacked onto the side of a bigger store.

The little branch of the supermarket, which has 74 stores throughout the Netherlands, is the first in the world to go plastic-free.

“I’m absolutely amazed,” said customer picking up a pack of carrots. “It looks exactly the same.”

But instead of doing away with packaging altogether — something other shops have tried and customers have not taken to — it’s doing something totally new and innovative.

Oliver Dixon/The Sun

All of the 700-plus products in the shop are wrapped in a biodegradable faux plastic, which will completely decompose after just 12 weeks on the compost heap.

When it was approached by UK based campaign group Plastic Planet, family-run business Ekoplaza decided it wanted to be the ones to take the plunge and go boldly into a plastic-free world.

“It’s been a long road to this point,” said Ekoplaza’s Steven Ijzerman, who’s been managing the plastic-free project from the beginning.

“We’ve been working on this for five years, ever since we decided we wanted to be the company to do something about this.

“The first versions of the packaging weren’t fantastic. They’d break at the seal but we kept working and kept developing it.

“What we have now is a packaging that’s fully compostable. It looks like plastic but it’s not. It’s such an eye-opener for people because it looks so similar. Even people who work in the store are surprised when they see it.”

Oliver Dixon/The Sun

He’s not kidding. The stuff looks exactly like plastic. It feels like plastic and even rustles like plastic when you touch it.

So what exactly is this wizardry?

“It’s made of cellulose, lactic acid, wood pulp, sugar cane — all natural materials,” explained 26-year-old Ijzerman.

“We wanted it to be strong and have the qualities of plastic have but be compostable. And we’ve done that.”

But fear not, it won’t melt away in your cupboard if you don’t use it within three months.

“It won’t decompose on your shelves — that’s not what you want. Also, we buy stuff in bulk so we don’t want it to decompose either,” said Ijzerman.

Oliver Dixon/The Sun

“It needs certain factors to decompose — to be in the ground, warmth which you find in a compost heap. But nature does it by itself. You don’t need to do anything to do it.”

And it’s no more expensive.

“We swallow that cost,” explained Ijzerman. “It’s a matter of pennies. Sure, we may earn a penny less on that product but it’s something we really want and makes our customer happy. That’s more important. It’s more important than getting crazy rich.”

Walking around the shop and inspecting the products you quickly learn there are different types of this faux-plastic.

Carrots are in a softer variety, cereals and beans in a sturdier type and fresh salad leaves in a more brittle, crunchy-feeling material.

The shop has even found a way to package fresh meat in an environmentally friendly way.

Oliver Dixon/The Sun

“Meat needs to be preserved and kept at a cold temperature so it needs to have a very strong barrier. Everything about it, the sticker, the glue, the seal, the tub is [now] fully compostable,” said Ijzerman.

“The scientists say if you get meat packaging right then you’ve cracked it.”

Sian Sutherland, one of the co-founders of Plastic Planet, who spearheaded the initiative, agrees.

And Sutherland said UK supermarkets could also have been using this clever, biodegradable alternative today if only they’d given it a chance sooner.

“We’re a UK organization and we launched our campaign 12 months ago asking UK supermarkets just to give the customer a choice with plastic-free. We talked to everyone.”

“I know margins are very tight for supermarkets but this is about doing something right for your customers. They want to buy plastic-free. Plastic has got out of hand in the UK. We have become ridiculously addicted to it.”

Oliver Dixon/The Sun

“You open your fridge today and think since when did everything become wrapped in plastic like this?”

“We will look back at this generation — and we are the plastic generation — and think: what was this madness? We’ve all sleepwalked into this and we’ve got to fast-track out of it. We have to do this for the next generation,” said Sutherland. “It’s not about blame, it’s not about guilt, it’s not even anti-plastic. It’s just that this is the wrong use of plastic.”

Ekoplaza will roll out the initiative to its other 74 stores by the end of the year.

The only UK store to consider something similar is Iceland, who’ve said it could take five years.

But if the chuffed reactions of Ekoplaza’s shoppers are anything to go by, then more supermarkets could soon follow suit.

Couple Margot Kistemaker and Bas Broertjes, both 30, said the shop made them proud to be Dutch.

Oliver Dixon/The Sun

“We’re not a big city, we don’t even have a million inhabitants so to have this here is great,” said Kistemaker.

Broertjes added: “I think it’s a good step. I still can’t believe it’s not plastic. You have to start somewhere and I’m glad it started in Amsterdam.”

Fifty-six-year-old Ans de Vries, a bookshop assistant and loyal customer, cycled over to check out the new part of the shop.

“I think it’s a wonderful idea to make things look like plastic and have the same quality as plastic but be biodegradable,” she said.

“Plastic worries me when I shop and this could make a huge difference.”

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