As It Happens

Amsterdam supermarket opens world's 1st plastic-free aisle

A supermarket in Amsterdam has become the first in the world to offer an entire aisle of groceries with plastic-free packaging.
The plastic-free aisle at Ekoplaza in Amsterdam offers 700 grocery items in non-plastic packaging. (A Plastic Planet )

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A supermarket in Amsterdam has become the first in the world to offer an entire aisle of groceries in plastic-free packaging.

The plastic-free aisle at Ekoplaza offers 700 grocery staples — including meat, produce, dairy and snacks — packaged in glass, metal, cardboard or compostable biomaterials.

The Dutch chain plans to roll out plastic-free aisles to all 74 of its stores by year's end. It has vowed not to pass the additional costs of the packaging on to consumers. 

"Today is a very exciting day for us," Sian Sutherland, co-founder of A Plastic Planet, told As It Happens host Carol Off.

Sutherland's campaign group worked with the supermarket to make the transition.

"Somebody has stepped up to the plate and said: 'We are going to be first. We are going show the world what a plastic-free aisle can look like.'"

Plastics and other detritus line the shore of the Thames Estuary on Jan. 2 in Cliffe, Kent. (Dan Kitwood/Getty Image)

Of the 8.3 billion tonnes of plastic humans made since 1950, 6.3 billion tonnes have already become waste, according to a 2017 study published in Science Advances.

Only nine per cent of that waste has been recycled. The rest accumulates in oceans and landfills, where it can take up to 400 years to degrade.

That's why Sutherland says businesses can't afford to wait for the law to catch up when it comes to plastic-free shopping.

A Plastic Planet is pushing other grocery chains to follow in Ekoplaza's footsteps.

"Legislation takes too long," Sutherland said. "We now know what we are doing to the planet. We can never unknow that. So we have to take action today."

Plastic found inside the belly of a Pacific albatross, as captured by documentary filmmaker Chris Jordan. (Chris Jordan )

But it's not just about the environmentalism, she said. It's also about consumer choice.

"Why can you buy dairy-free and gluten-free and fat-free and all of those things, but you can't buy plastic-free?" she said.

"The public really wants to have this choice now."

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