Supporter Information: 

William Buckland was a highly successful pastoralist who had a great love of the land and agriculture. His suggestion that his Trustees, in administering funds from the Foundation, “give preference to agriculture and related pursuits” has been instrumental in developing the Advancing Agriculture Program for the Foundation.

The William Buckland Foundation, through its Advancing Agriculture Program, supports initiatives which focus on strengthening the resilience and capacity of regional and rural communities. This includes the support of innovative approaches to farming that increase yield and/or reduce damaging environmental impacts as well ensuring that rural leaders are equipped to inclusively address the challenges and embrace the opportunities that arise through change.

  Website: www.williambucklandfoundation.org.au

Natasha Shields

Cooperation needed to solve fresh produce’s ‘plastic problem’

 

Summary

  • Many large customers in Australia require vegetables be wrapped in plastic

  • A Victorian vegetable grower searched the world for sustainable solutions

  • Systems need to change for farmers to introduce these alternatives

 

Farmers need support from the supermarkets and government to reduce plastic packaging on their produce, says Victorian vegetable grower Natasha Shields.

“As an organic and family farming business, it’s a priority for me and my husband Wayne to take care of the environment including by reducing waste,” Natasha says.

Supplying two supermarket chains and wholesale markets in Victoria, New South Wales and Queensland has allowed the family to expand their Peninsula Fresh Organics business, but it has also created a ‘plastic problem’ for the family.

“Supermarkets, other retailers and some wholesalers require fresh fruit and vegetables to be wrapped in plastic for hygiene, shelf-life and logistics reasons,” Natasha says.

“And COVID-19 has made the preference for wrapped or packaged fresh produce all the stronger.”

But many of their home delivery and farmers’ markets customers have pushed back. This dilemma drove Natasha to travel from Baxter on the Mornington Peninsula across the world to find alternatives to plastic packaging such as bioplastics and misting systems in supermarkets.

Thanks to a Nuffield Scholarship, supported by The William Buckland Foundation, Natasha travelled to Asia, Europe, the Middle East and North America to see the latest innovations. She’s captured her learnings in a report, to make them available to other fruit and vegetable growers and the value chain.

 

The innovation that excites her the most from her travels is Ecoflexy, a bioplastic that is made from food waste by Danish start-up Cellugy.

“It’s awesome; it’s made from food waste and can break down in a normal home garden in four weeks, providing nutrients to your own plants. But it’s not as simple as farmers switching out existing plastic wrap for bioplastic. There’s no silver bullet to our industry’s plastic problem. Some retailers and wholesalers won’t accept bioplastic packaging for fresh produce. And even if that changed, we still need to do a lot of work as a society to make sure bioplastics are recycling properly.”

She says it is crucial to educate consumers and standardise labelling.

“We need support from government and retailers, especially supermarkets who have such a strong connection to large number of consumers, and ultimately we need the support from consumers to win the war on waste.”

Final Report Link

Final Video Link