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UK Retailers Test-Drive Greener Fruit Packaging to Cut Food Waste

<p>Strips that absorb the gas that accelerates fruit ripening are being tested by Marks &amp; Spencer and Tesco in the hopes of slashing food and packaging waste.</p>

Two U.K. supermarkets are testing packaging technology that promises to extend the shelf life of tomatoes, strawberries and other fruits.

Marks & Spencer and Tesco are each committed to reducing packaging and food waste, both through company-led programs and the industry-wide Courtauld Commitment.

Lowering those waste figures takes many tactics, and the latest being trialed by the retailers are strips made by It's Fresh that absorb the gas that makes fruit ripen and get moldy.

The strips contain a mixture of minerals and clay that remove ethylene, a gas given off by ripening fruit that accelerates ripening, from inside packaging.

Marks & Spencer plans to add the strips to packaging for various fresh berries over the coming months, estimating that the strips will keep the fruit fresh for up to two extra days, BusinessGreen reported. A previous test of the strips led to only 4 percent of food being wasted, holding the potential to save some 800,000 strawberries a week.

Tesco, meanwhile, will use the strips in tomato and avocado packaging, projecting they can help save 1.6 million packs of tomatoes and 350,000 packs of avocados annually.

Using the strips can not only help retailers dump less food and packaging, but also keep foods fresher in customers' homes longer, reducing waste on their end as well. And as for when the packaging does get tossed, It's Fresh says the strips do not hinder the recyclability of plastics.

Food and packaging waste are the main targets of the Courtauld Commitment, a voluntary agreement by U.K. stores, brands and manufacturers. Now more than six years old, the Commitment's most recent goals centered on carbon emissions related to packaging, food waste in people's homes and supply chain waste.

Along with tactics like minimizing the amount of material in packaging, retailers have enacted other changes like switching milk from bottle to bags, and putting tomatoes in cartons instead of cans.

Marks & Spencer, as part of its company-wide Plan A program, has documented some of the many changes it has made, from using plastic instead of glass wine bottles to selling pizza without a box.

Berry photo via Shutterstock.

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