It seems plastic free is a trend that’s spreading across the waters – just look at beautiful South Africa for example.

Chain store, Pick n Pay have started with a rather promising initiative where 13 stores across the country will now feature a plastic and packaging free zone quite cheekily named “nude zones” in a trial to see how customers respond.

Customers are encouraged to bring along their own transparent, sealable containers in which to pack fruits and vegetables in, but the store will also be offering reusable mesh bags for a mere R7.50 (53 cents) for those who don’t have their own containers.

The initiative started when stores noted that only 10% of their loose fruit and vegetables accounted as sales.

“There is scope to grow our ‘nude’ wall offering, but it needs to be sustainable and without unintended consequences. Reducing plastic waste has obvious benefits, but we need to be careful not to increase food waste levels during the process,” said Paula Disberry, a retail executive at Pick n Pay.

They have stepped things up a notch – they now also laser etch some of their veggies to reduce the use of plastic labels. This can be done to sweet potatoes, gem squash and butternut.

“Even if a small label is used on a single product, the label backing is still plastic. The laser removes the top layer of skin on hardy vegetables and etches the Pick n Pay logo, supplier code and sell-by date directly onto the individual product. This means zero plastic is used on these products,” says Disberry.

For many a year, plastic has been the go-to to keep food fresh, safe from damage and dirt, keep the moisture in and overall extend the shelf and home life of products to satisfy the customer.

“The impact of plastic is now front of mind for customers. We will closely monitor shopping behaviour and if this trial is successful, we can expand the initiative to more stores,” said Disberry.

The new Nude Wall will include quite a variety of items which previously came pre-packaged. The variety is quite impressive with foods ranging from brown steak mushrooms, portabellini mushrooms, red and green chillies, cocktail tomatoes, sweet Palermo peppers, baby brinjals, green beans, broccoli, zucchini, sweet corn to baby cabbage.

There will also be a ‘garden’ boasting some 35 other loose fruits and vegetables, which will all be available in season only.

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