María Teresa Segura de la Monja Head for Quality and Environment of ACES, (Association of Spanish Supermarket Chains): “The packaging of the future must be reusable or recyclable, support the climate objectives of the EU and be able to provide consumers with safe products and, at the same time, sustainable “
We spoke with María Teresa Segura de la Monja Head of Quality and Environment at ACES to learn about the process of change that food product distribution chains are experiencing. The appearance of a new legal framework that reduces the consumption of plastic in food packaging in supermarkets and the technological development towards sustainable packaging are the highest priorities at the moment. Companies are complying with the new regulations but they are also betting on creating reusable meshes that change consumer habits.
1-AS THE RESPONSIBLE FOR FOOD SAFETY AND THE ENVIRONMENT OF ACES, WHAT ARE THE MAIN THREATS AND OPPORTUNITIES THAT THE COMPANY IS FACING TO IMPLEMENT A POLICY TO REDUCE THE USE OF PLASTIC IN SUPERMARKETS?
Although it is true that we are in a society that is increasingly aware of improving sustainability, there is still a long way to go, mainly in reducing and improving waste management.
The distribution chains have been the pioneers in incorporating voluntary measures in their desire to work for the environment and have taken decisions such as, for example, reducing the consumption of plastic bags and many others, in the absence of a mandatory legal framework.
And in this sense, they continue to work, in what they have considered a priority for years, replacing the packaging materials with more sustainable ones, reducing their presence and quantity, to the extent that other regulations such as health or agri-food allow us, since it is necessary to ensure that the product that the consumer buys has all the guarantees and security at the time of purchase.
In the new Circular Economy Plan, the European Commission announced the review and reinforcement of the essential requirements for packaging established in the Packaging and Packaging Waste Directive. The Regulation of materials in contact with food is also being revised, which will establish new materials that can be used as an alternative to plastic and also the use of recycled plastic. The new proposal for a Royal Decree on packaging is about to go public and the Single-use Plastics Directive will be transposed in the coming months into the law on waste and contaminated soils.
For all this, we are in a time of change, with some ambitious and very important regulatory challenges posed and in which the reduction of single-use plastic containers is a priority.
The packaging of the future must be reusable or recyclable, support the EU’s climate goals and be able to provide consumers with safe and sustainable products.
The challenge is that the legislation is accompanied by technological development and that it leaves a margin of flexibility in which the best business practices led by supermarket chains can fit.
2-TO WHAT EXTENT IS BENEFICIAL TO REDUCE THE USE OF PLASTIC IN FOOD PACKAGING FOR THE CONSUMERS OWN? WOULD YOU ADVISE BULK SALE BEFORE OTHER TYPES OF BIODEGRADABLE CONTAINERS?
There are many reasons why food packaging is essential: it protects the integrity of products, increases their shelf life, reduces food losses, facilitates efficient transport, handling and distribution, and of course safety.
It is essential at this time to work on ecodesign, reducing the amount of material used, especially plastic, promoting the bulk sale of fruit and vegetable products, provided they are categories that do not suffer deterioration when sold in bulk.
When this happens, the best option would be to use the appropriate packaging.
3- ACCORDING TO YOUR OPINION, ARE COMPOSTABLE MATERIALS AN INTERESTING ALTERNATIVE TO RAISE SUSTAINABILITY AND THE CIRCULAR ECONOMY? IN WHICH AREAS IS THERE MORE AWARENESS REGARDING THE USE OF THE SAME? (FOOD? BOX PACKED? ETC.)
These types of materials are a great alternative to the current conventional material. This is due both to its composition and to its treatment as waste, which benefits the circular economy and, therefore, sustainability.
More and more sectors are becoming aware of our environment and opting for the use of this type of material. In this sense, we can find them in packaging and utensils in sectors such as food, restaurants,retail, etc.
In any case, the regulations should contemplate a specific treatment for this type of materials, since it currently establishes obligations in some cases for the use of compostable plastic (for example, for supermarket bags), but in other cases it makes a treatment equivalent to the rest of plastic materials.
4-WHAT DO YOU THINK THAT SOME SUPERMARKET CHAINS HAVE IMPLEMENTED THE USE OF COMPOSTABLE BAGS? IS THIS MEASURE HELPING TO REDUCE THE ENVIRONMENTAL FOOTPRINT? WHAT OTHER COMMITMENTS DO SUPERMARKETS MAKE TO COMPLY WITH THE OBJECTIVES ESTABLISHED BY THE POLICIES OF THE MINISTRY FOR THE ECOLOGICAL TRANSITION?
Any action that helps to curb the environmental footprint is good. All the supermarket chains associated with ACES are firmly committed to sustainability and reducing the impact of their activity on all fronts that affect the environment.
Companies have not only focused on compliance with regulations, anticipating them in many cases, such as the use of compostable box bags, but they are also proposing other types of sustainable alternatives aimed at changing habits in consumers, as is the case of the supply of reusable nets for the fruit and vegetable section or other types of reusable packaging.