Veges in plastic rated worst-packaged item

MATT STEWART
Last updated 05:00 09/06/2012
Sophie Ward
GINA DEMPSTER/Wanaka Wastebusters

TRAY OF SHAME: Sophie Ward with the trophy for the Worst Packaging Award 2012. The Unpackit Packaging Awards 2012 are run by Wanaka Wastebusters to encourage New Zealanders to choose smart packaging.

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Supermarket giant Foodstuffs has beaten Barbie and the pot noodle by getting the most votes in a public poll to find New Zealand's worst packaging.

Foodstuffs received the unwanted gong for putting vegetables on polystyrene meat trays and wrapping them in plastic as part of the Unpackit Worst Packaging Awards 2012, organised by Wanaka Wastebusters.

Foodstuffs also featured in third place with more polystyrene – four separately wrapped pieces of meat on meat trays set on a bigger meat tray and wrapped in more plastic.

The awards polled 9000 people online and a further 1000 at farmers' markets.

"There's a lot of ridiculous packaging out there, so it's quite an achievement to be voted the worst packaging in New Zealand," Unpackit spokeswoman Sophie Ward said.

Supermarkets who sold plastic-wrapped vegetables on polystyrene meat trays were ignoring the environmental effects of packaging, and Ms Ward hoped the dubious honour would be a "wake-up call" for Foodstuffs, which controls a big chunk of the food and beverage market with brands like New World, Pak 'n Save and Four Square.

Foodstuffs New Zealand executive manager Melissa Hodd accepted there was an onus on the company as a large retailer to try harder to reduce polystyrene packaging – especially for produce. Among other environmental projects, the company had set up a sustainability programme focused on packaging.

Reducing the amount of polystyrene packaging and identifying more sustainable alternatives was "already a priority" for Foodstuffs.

"Receiving the Unpackit Award for Worst Packaging further solidifies our need to focus on this area of the business," Ms Hodd said.

Meat trays can't be recycled in most places in New Zealand, so both the cling film and trays go straight to landfill.

"The most frustrating thing is that fruit and vegetables like carrots, parsnips, courgettes, grapes and avocados don't need to be wrapped, they come with their own skins which protect them just fine. Packaging them is completely unnecessary and a waste of resources," Ms Ward said.

In second place was last year's inaugural winner – Sunsweet's individually wrapped "One" prunes, which come in a non-recyclable tube, again wrapped in plastic. Sunsweet New Zealand agent Ken Garmonsway said the product was designed to promote health through convenience and was made from recyclable plastic.

The Best Packaging Award was won by Bin Inn, where customers can buy unpackaged products from self-selection bins.

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- © Fairfax NZ News

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