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16 August 2019

REWE and PENNY to stop selling cucumbers with plastic wrap

Eliminating shrink wrap will save up to 160,000 kilogrammes of plastic per year

Cucumbers without plastic wrap

The REWE Group is stepping up its efforts in the area of resource conservation: from October 2019, all of the conventional cucumbers sold by the approximately 5,900 REWE and PENNY stores throughout Germany will no longer be wrapped in plastic, even outside of the German growing season. By eliminating shrink wrap on conventional and organic cucumbers, the REWE Group will be able save up to 160,000 kilogrammes of plastic in total per year.

A cucumber is about 97 percent water, making it one of the most sensitive vegetables. As soon as it is harvested, it starts to lose this water. The thin shrink wrap made of recyclable polyethylene plays an important role in protecting against dehydration and damage. With the involvement of the entire supply chain, REWE and PENNY are now planning to change the transport processes so that conventional cucumbers can be sold non-wrapped even outside of the German growing season, which lasts up to nine months. The challenge: cucumbers without this protective wrapping are more susceptible to fluctuating weather conditions in the growing countries, which can have a greater impact on freshness and quality.

“When looking at saving plastic and packaging, we have to consider the entire supply chain. The basic requirement must be maintaining the quality of the products during storage and transport. For us, a non-wrapped product that spoils due to excessive water loss, for example, has nothing to do with conserving resources but represents unnecessary food waste that we are keen to avoid,” explains Eugenio Guidoccio, Ultra-Fresh Products Manager at the REWE Group. In exceptional cases, therefore, extreme weather conditions may make it necessary to shrink-wrap the cucumbers in a thin protective layer of plastic to prevent premature spoilage. Ultimately, however, REWE and PENNY managers expect at least 95 percent of the cucumbers to be sold without shrink wrap for the entire season.

The REWE Group packaging strategy: avoid, reduce, improve

The REWE Group has made more environmentally friendly packaging part of an overarching strategy. Wherever possible, the Group aims to avoid or reduce packaging or make it more environmentally friendly. By the end of 2025, all unavoidable plastic packaging from REWE and PENNY own brands will be recyclable. This should reduce the ecological impact and promote the recycling of the materials used. In addition, REWE and PENNY intend to use a total of 20 percent less plastic in their own-brand packaging by the end of 2025 and will already be using only certified raw materials for paper-based packaging by the end of 2020.

Last year, the REWE Group had already committed to optimising the environmental credentials of all private-label retail and service packaging at REWE, PENNY and toom Baumarkt by the end of 2030. To date, it has redesigned more than 1,400 items. With the changes already implemented, REWE and PENNY alone are currently saving around 8,200 tons of plastic per year.

The cooperatively organised REWE Group is one of the leading trade and tourism groups both within Germany and in Europe. In 2017, the company generated a total external turnover of approximately 58 billion euros. Founded in 1927, REWE Group operates 15,300 stores with more than 345,000 employees in 21 European countries.

Sales lines include REWE, REWE CENTER, REWE CITY and BILLA supermarkets and consumer stores, the discounter PENNY and toom DIY stores. There are also convenience stores (REWE To Go) and e-commerce activities (REWE delivery service, ZooRoyal online pet food shop, Weinfreunde wine shop and the Kölner Weinkeller wine merchant). Travel and tourism under the umbrella of DER Touristik includes the tour operators ITS, Jahn Reisen, Dertour, Meiers Weltreisen, ADAC Reisen, Kuoni, Helvetic Tours, Apollo and Exim Tours and more than 2,400 travel agencies (including DER Reisebüro, DERPART and partners), the hotel chains lti hotels, Club Calimera, Cooee, PrimaSol and Playitas Resort and the direct tour operator,