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A closer look at Amsterdam’s plastic-free aisle

Ekoplaza Amsterdam plastic-free aisle
This Dutch grocery store hopes to inspire other retailers to look for unnecessary plastics in their processes.

You may have seen the news about Ekoplaza, the Dutch grocery store that debuted an entirely plastic-free aisle last month. The effort, which is a result of a collaboration with the campaign A Plastic Planet, features more than 700 products that are free of plastic packaging.

The aisle resembles any modern grocery aisle—it’s not just fresh produce and bulk bins. The store reduced the use of plastic wherever it could, and then found alternatives for types of packaging that traditionally rely on plastic, such as bagged grains, fresh-sealed produce and packages of meat.

Ekoplaza executives say the best-selling products are convenient snacks like chocolate and crisps, as well as fresh fruits and vegetables.

The plastic-like packaging used on products like mixed nuts, flours, couscous, granola is made out of biomaterials like cellulose and poly lactic acid, in combination with the sugars from cane sugar or corn. The packaging composts within 12 weeks.

“The hardest to source for a long time was the meat packaging, because it needs a lot of special features to make it work (low temperature and high barrier for oxygen),” said Steven IJzerman, quality manager.

He advises U.S. retailers who may be interested in reducing the plastic in their stores to start by looking for unnecessary uses of plastics. “In our logistics we do not use any plastic anymore just because we could work in a slightly different way. This is the first step. Afterwards, look for alternatives for plastic,” he said.

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