Shoppers in the Amsterdam store can choose from over 700 different goods packaged without any plastic, with each product bearing a new Plastic Free mark. The aisle and mark, complete with bags, posters and a wide range of environmental graphics, have been designed by the London-based studio, Made Thought.
Speaking to the Guardian, Sian Sutherland, co-founder of A Plastic Planet, claimed the single aisle in Ekoplaza represented “a landmark moment for the global fight against plastic pollution. For decades shoppers have been sold the lie that we can’t live without plastic in food and drink. A plastic-free aisle dispels all that. Finally we can see a future where the public have a choice about whether to buy plastic or plastic-free. Right now we have no choice.”
A Guardian report in January this year exposed the fact that British supermarkets were responsible for producing nearly 1m tonnes of plastic waste a year, though most chains won’t disclose the exact amounts of plastic they use – only Aldi and the Co-op revealed what they produced. According to the investigation “Tesco, Sainsbury’s, Morrisons, Waitrose, Asda and Lidl all refused the Guardian’s request, with most saying the information was ‘commercially sensitive’.”
For Made Thought founding partner, Ben Parker, the studio’s involvement hinged on them wanting to move away from using references to “environmentalism” and “altruism,” he explains. “The brief was all about fashioning a new way of looking at plastic and its place in modern life. It was about realising an inspiring vision of the future that transcends the limited modes of thought that have gone before.
“Design can never be truly progressive unless it changes behaviour,” he adds. “Plastic Free Aisles offer a vision of the future that consumers can get on board with. They demonstrate that going plastic-free does not mean forsaking choice, convenience or quality. Instead, going plastic-free enhances all those things.”
Significantly, the aisle in the Amsterdam store isn’t part of the ‘packaging-free movement’ that has gained ground in recent years. Packaging is evident throughout the aisle, it just isn’t made from plastics. In fact, one of the issues facing the new project was the fact that the new breed of natural, compostable bio-materials look and feel so much like plastic that shoppers can find it difficult to differentiate between the two.
“Helping to create brands that are desirable and elevated, Made Thought were the perfect fit for us,” adds Sutherland. “In leading the design of the world’s first Plastic Free Aisle, [they’ve] created an iconic visual identity that can be replicated in supermarkets across the world as more stores back the initiative.”
In keeping with the aims of A Plastic Planet’s campaign, by the end of 2018, Ekoplaza hopes to have a Plastic Free Aisle in each of its 74 shops in the Netherlands. The second Plastic Free Aisle is expected to open in The Hague branch in June this year.