Study finds pandemic causing consumers to avoid unpackaged produce


THE Covid-19 pandemic is making consumers less likely to purchase unpackaged produce, according to new research from Divert.

A survey of 250 shoppers from the waste collection firm revealed that 83% had bought the majority of their fruit and vegetables in some form of packaging this year, with 28% saying that they opted for loose produce pre-Covid.

When surveyed, Matt, 36, told the Divert team, “I can’t really explain it, it just feels like it’s safer. I don’t want to be picking up bits of fruit and veg with my hands and chucking them in a trolley, the plastic bags are extra protection.”

Divert said that compostable paper gloves or regularly-cleaned tongs should be considered by supermarkets, in a bid to alleviate any fears of the produce being handled by other shoppers. Further to this would be a public awareness campaign around washing fruit and vegetables or a strict ‘you touch it, you buy it’ rule.

Mark Hall, Divert’s spokesperson, said, “It’s understandable that people – and businesses – want to avoid the risk of Covid-19, and on the face of it, bundling food back into plastic packaging seems like an obvious choice. But it seems to be a knee-jerk reaction that hasn’t taken into account the fact that science seems to show that transmission risk via surfaces and objects is very low – giving your apples a good wash before use should be precaution enough.

“Financial incentives for bringing reusable bags for consumers, or financial disincentives to retailers using unnecessary plastic instead of recyclables past the end of this lockdown, would also help focus the public mind back onto this crucial issue. It’s not that the virus isn’t important – of course, it is, and safety must come first. But with slightly more joined-up thinking we could have avoided a colossal amount of landfill being generated in the last 12 months, and it’s time we stopped treating the environment and its protection as an optional concern.

“Both the public and businesses have a responsibility to continue making waste reduction a priority and finding innovative, environmentally friendly solutions when needed – like they have been this year.”