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Best and worst lists bring an array of emotions - elation at being voted the best, and despair if voted the worst.Well, according to a public poll to uncover New Zealand's worst packaging, supermarket chain Foodstuffs has been "awarded" the prize for worst packaging for putting vegetables on polystyrene meat-trays and then wrapping them in plastic.

Heather Caliendo

June 11, 2012

3 Min Read
And the worst packaging award for 2012 goes to…

Best and worst lists bring an array of emotions - elation at being voted the best, and despair if voted the worst.

Well, according to a public poll to uncover New Zealand's worst packaging, supermarket chain Foodstuffs has been "awarded" the prize for worst packaging for putting vegetables on polystyrene meat-trays and then wrapping them in plastic.

The "award" came from the Unpackit Packaging Awards 2012, which is part of the Smart Packaging project designed to help people choose sustainable packaging and raise awareness about packaging waste.  

The project has received financial support from the Waste Minimization Fund, administered by the Ministry for the Environment.

foodstuffs_bigger_2_3_4_N2.jpgMelissa Hodd, executive manager Foodstuffs New Zealand, said that Foodstuffs will try harder to reduce the amount of polystyrene packaging used by their stores, in particular with regard to produce packaging.

"Foodstuffs has recently set up a sustainability program which is looking at packaging among other environmental projects," she said in a news release. "We would like to confirm that reducing the amount of polystyrene packaging used and identifying more sustainable alternatives is already a priority for this group, and receiving the Unpackit Award for Worst Packaging further solidifies our need to focus on this area of the business."

More than 10,000 votes decided the Best and Worst Packaging Awards for 2012.

Unpackit spokeswoman Sophie Ward said the high number of votes showed that people "really care about packaging and its impact on the environment."

"The plastic-wrapped vegetables on a meat-tray just managed to beat the individually wrapped prunes to take the Worst Packaging title, but there were only a few votes in it," she said. "There's a lot of ridiculous packaging out there, so it's quite an achievement to be voted the worst packaging in New Zealand."

She stated she hoped winning the Worst Packaging Award would be a wake-up call for Foodstuffs.

One reason Foodstuffs "won" this award is because meat-trays are not easily recycled in New Zealand, and as a result many of the meat-trays go straight to the landfill, according to Unpackit. Items such as carrots, parsnips, bananas and avocadoes don't necessarily need to be wrapped as they come with their own skins that protect them.

Foodstuffs also won third place in the Worst Packaging Award for their meat multi-packs: four separately wrapped pieces meat-tray-300x225.jpgof meat on meat-trays placed on a bigger meat-tray and wrapped in more plastic.

Ward said replacing polystyrene meat-trays for meat packaging is much more difficult.

"Supermarkets sell their meat pre-packed for display, and there are not many alternatives which can deal with the blood," she said. "However, I have seen chicken sold in recyclable plastic trays, and there are some new compostable materials that might be viable in the near future."

For Unpackit's Best Packaging Award, the winner was Bin Inn, a New Zealand co-operative with 33 stores. The co-op encourages customers to bring in their own bottles and containers to refill from the self-selection bins and barrels.

Regardless of your thoughts regarding the awards, you can't argue that they're not a conversation starter about packaging. I think veggies still need some sort of protection, but polystyrene meat-trays wrapped in more plastic is probably not the answer.

What are you thoughts about these awards? What you would nominate for best and work packaging? What's the line between efficient and excessive packaging?

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