“A little awareness cannot hurt”: Albert Heijn, 2019.

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Albert Heijn boasts from being awarded the “Most sustainable supermarket in the Netherlands”. It is interesting however to note that this award did not include any organic supermarket, challenging only 5 of the largest shops in the Netherlands (e.g. Dirk van de Broek, Coop, Aldi and Spar).

“A little awareness cannot hurt”: Albert Heijn, 2019.

Albert Heijn (AH) is the largest supermarket chain in the Netherlands. Scattered everywhere, it has a monopoly on the country which does not compare to many other nations. Allerhande, its magazine (comparable to the IKEA catalogue), is therefore a good way to take the pulse of the contemporary Netherlands.

In its September edition we can find a double page on “plastic” and “packaging”. On the left, an interview of “Diana”, an environmentally conscious consumer: and the right, one of Anne Kluivers, communication adviser at ”Milieu Centraal”, a consulting firm focusing on sustainability. Diana, says to be conscious of her CO2 print and believes that “a little awareness cannot hurt”. To the question “Do you believe in a plastic-free world?” she answers:

“I would like to, but I don’t see it happening, it is not handy {…} I try therefore to find the right balance between “a good feeling towards my CO2 print” and practicality.”

By interviewing this most likely fictional “well-intentioned consumer”, Albert Heijn is here telling the public to not try to push it too much and keep shopping as usual. To which it adds with the second interview of the professional:

“We want plastic to be 100% recyclable {…} What the wrapping does is that is protects the food from being spoiled {…} food waste is worst than a thin layer of plastic” {…} sometimes, plastic is better than glass.”

With very imprecise arguments (do we here consider the whole chain of the plastic waste management? Is throwing away a vegetable really worse that plastic wrappings?), backed by no evidence, Albert Heijn seems to be willing to keep wrapping carrots in individual plastic wraps. Losing a bit of confort for the good of the environment seems to be a narrative pushed by many european supermakets giants (self service dispenser, compostable wrappings, etc…). It may be some time before the subject shall be considered by the dutch…

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