Supermarket expert: Shopper environmental awareness still low
Consumer awareness on plastics use could be better, at least according to one major supermarket.
The majority of customers at Latvian-owned Rimi do not bring their own bag with them when shopping at the supermarket, Rimi spokesperson and responsible entrepreneurship expert Karin Bats said Thursday.
Even the solution of allowing customers to leave their bag or other container with the cashier, something already possible in some countries, might not work, Bats said.
"Rimi could manage implementing this idea, but I cannot see customer willingness for it," Bats said, speaking at panel discussion at the Adapter cooperation festival last Thursday.
"The share of so-called re-users is still very small," Bats went on.
Other panellists included Toomas Silla from the Center of Food and Fermentation Technologies, Raivo Vokk from TalTech, Elin Org from Tallinn University and Triin Korgemaa from packaged food company Salvest.
Problems were the same when it came to food waste, Bats said, noting that food waste was largely the product of consumers rather than retailers, with householders accounting for around 70 percent of food wastage, she said.
"We are a business, our goal is to sell all our food, which is why we keep a close eye on our figures. We have invested a lot in retail order management systems to ensure that the amount of write-offs should be as small as possible. Rimi also employs technical solutions, allowing us to quickly find and discount foods that are nearing their expiration date," Bats said.
Rimi is also implementing several projects geared at reducing food wastage, Bats said, adding that, again, most households most likely do not discuss the issue.
"Rimi also has good contacts with the Food Bank (Toidupank)," Bats said.
"However, while common sense might say that … Food Bank should quickly be contacted and any perishable goods should be handed over to them, sadly, however, that's not always allowed. There are strict rules on what we can donate," she added.
Bats also said that Rimi receives emails from customers pointing out environmentally friendly packaging options used elsewhere in the world.
"I can confirm that there are no producers today that are not thinking about environmentally friendly packaging," Bats said.
"Innovation in packaging has been very rapid in recent years and an increasing number of new solutions are also making their way to supermarket shelves. However, we won't be rid of packages any time soon because food retailers are subject to very strict hygiene requirements. We need to make sure that the food does not cause people any health problems. Plastic packaging is the best option we have today for guaranteeing hygiene."
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Editor: Andrew Whyte