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.