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Paper or plastic? Canadian scientist at centre of grocery debate

Date May 1, 2017 Author Lucy Robinson Categories News

A Guelph food scientist has found himself at the centre of what may be the world’s longest-running grocery debate: paper or plastic?

In this case, the issue is not bags but boxes – specifically, the boxes used to deliver produce from farms to grocery stores. Keith Warriner, a University of Guelph professor, released a study late last month that raises concerns about the hygiene of boxes made out of plastic. But it’s just the latest in a series of escalating hostilities between the paper and plastic industries – a feud that has pitted food scientists against environmentalists, leaving growers and grocers caught in the middle.

Until the past decade, the vast majority of fruits and vegetables in North America was transported using cardboard boxes. But this changed about five years ago, when Loblaw Cos. Ltd. asked suppliers to switch to recycled plastic boxes.

The thinking was simple: plastic boxes, which were already being used in Europe, could be reused, thus reducing the amount of waste. For retailers like Loblaw, this also meant staff wouldn’t have to deal with disposing of cardboard.

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