Awards target rubbishy packaging

By Amelia Wade

The Amazon Kindle is one of the 2013 best list finalists.
The Amazon Kindle is one of the 2013 best list finalists.

Individually wrapped coffee servings, plastic-wrapped produce in polystyrene trays and the 180 million disposable cups Kiwis use a year are choking our landfills unnecessarily.

And all have been nominated for the worst packaging category, alongside egg cartons with a plastic viewing box and apple slices in plastic bags, in the 2013 Unpackit awards.

This year, the public submitted almost 290 products with non-recyclable, poorly labelled or just annoying wrapping on our shelves.

Sue Coutts of Unpackit said bad packaging just created rubbish.

"Multipacks feature on the worst list with so-called 'convenience' foods like Snappz pre-sliced 'fresh' apples in plastic bags and Twist mini-size fruit drinks in tetrapak. Both create unnecessary rubbish, contain a small amount of product and come at a premium price."

Also among the unnecessarily packaged fresh produce items were fruit and vegetables on polystyrene meat-trays wrapped in plastic. Frustrated consumers nominated Countdown, Fruit World and Pak'n Save among other unidentified stores.

"Lashing peeled mandarins, garlic cloves, zucchinis, carrots and giant watermelons to meat trays with plastic wrap creates unnecessary waste," the Unpackit spokeswoman said.

Kerbside recycling cannot take polystyrene, which can clog, stop and break recycling equipment, according to local authorities.

The sustainability manager for Foodstuffs New Zealand, Mike Sammons, said last month their New World and Pak'n Save stores were offered an alternative to polystyrene trays outside of butchery.

"With more than 200 supermarkets throughout the country, there will undoubtedly be instances where the stores are running down large stocks of poly trays and the transition to the new alternatives is taking longer than we anticipated."

But he said the message to stores was now clear - polystyrene is unacceptable outside of butchery.

A Countdown spokeswoman said its supermarkets tried to minimise packaging and use recyclable options where possible, but some cut products were packaged individually for freshness and transport home.

Kiwis' coffee habit also put two products in the worst category - Nespresso's single-serve aluminium capsules and disposable cups that are "on a one way trip to the dump".

Ms Coutts said companies took notice when customers nominated them for an Unpackit award.

Vacuum-packed lamb legs lashed on to two polystyrene meat trays with plastic wrap were photographed in Glen Innes on May 22 and nominated but the following week they were just being sold in the vacuum pack.

Ms Coutts said the best packaging spoke for itself and the companies nominated in the "best packaging" category took the pain out of shopping. People nominated 137 products.

The Unpackit Awards are run by Wanaka Wastebusters, a community enterprise begun in 2010 to raise awareness. Voting opens today at www.unpackit.org.nz and will close on November 8.

- NZ Herald

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