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Having Zero Waste Supermarkets worldwide is a fact of political choices

We can easily monitor and account all plastic sold by supermarkets per gram and ask them to re-collect it by law. They'd react reducing it

Photo of Clara Salina
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The Zero Waste Supermarket formula is an opportunity to get products to people without generating plastic waste, but majority of products are distributed by standard supermarkets with their unstoppable diffusion in any nation of the world.
Since the '60, huge quantities of plastic got out from their shops.

We have reached a point in which the measures implemented by the current recycling model, which are focused on producer responsibility and final consumer awareness are clearly not enough to prevent the continued accumulation of plastic waste in the oceans.

“Barcode v/s Plastic Waste” continues forward in the argument, focusing and controlling that crucial and almost forgotten player in the current model of consumption: retail or supermarkets.
Consumers must continue recycling, but reality shows clear that the potential to decrease plastic waste could not lay on upon only consumer awareness.

Supermarkets do hold responsibility for ENCOURAGING THE USE of plastic and packaging, as they radically changed our model of consumption. But through them we also have the potential to drastically reduce plastic quantities in daily use or eliminate it all together.

Following “Barcode v/s Plastic Waste”, Governments should request supermarkets to be responsible for all plastic re-collection associated with products they sell, while Public Administration would maintain the duty of control of its actual recycling.

The barcode which identifies any item sold, offers the possibility to monitor and account weight and material composition of all plastics, containers or packaging, by simply adding these information into the barcode.

Having the package information (i.e. PET2/45gr. – PET5/75gr. – etc.) inside the same barcode already used on any item sold will offer an extremely easy way to obtain the necessary data to apply follow-up control over its re-collection.

We would be able to monitor the recyclable materials per gram through the entire transaction system in real-time, allowing us to review any cash register day by day.

For example, at the end of the day of a given supermarket we will know that from cash #1 got out: 800gr/PET1, 700gr/PET2, 550gr/PET3 and so on, along with the money collected.

It is important to highlight, the requested plastic re-collection criterion will be weight and material and won’t refer to “that” specific packaging, bottle or jar sold by a specified supermarket.

Therefore, along with the necessary law, just a new software (or adjustment of the existing one) and a new logistic inside supermarkets will be enough to produce the change.

“Barcode v/s Plastic Waste” would transform millions of negative actions into positive, preventing the loss of tons of raw material with a final reduction of petrol demand too.

This new recycling process could reach the full capacity in three years, requesting 30% of plastic collection quantity the first year, 60% the second 90-100% the third.

We will be forcing “a few” to influence millions.

What might happen?

In the path of assumptions, it is very likely that, in the typical private market’s problem solving spirit, immediate solutions would be sought to face the task that has been imposed by law, such as:

1) a huge process of professional training for the company’s internal staff will be needed, with the immediate result of raising awareness amongst the thousands of workers of the given companies;

2) probably implementation of “face to face” communicational campaigns at cash register, asking to consumers to bring the plastic back, with the suitable achievement of a rising awareness on plastic dangerousness;

3) the most important: it is likely possible that supermarket chains will push producers toward a switch from "disposable plastic" to "refillable containers" wherever possible, with the aim to reduce the impact of the law;

4) packaging simplification would be immediately required for an easier re-collection.

All this might probably happen within the very first year, while they must re-collect only 30%.

So, it is very likely that we would have a drastic plastic packaging reduction within only one year from the day the law would take force.

“Barcode v/s Plastic Waste” offers an efficient, win-win-win model: a sustainable and dynamic circle, a cradle to cradle controlled process for this uncontrolled and currently destructive material.

With “Barcode v/s Plastic Waste” we would be able to transform in Zero Waste every supermarket on Earth. 

Supermarket cash registers are the last control in the commercial process. After that, only individual awareness and the environment are remaining.

It is especially needed in developing countries and wherever the EPR law’s infrastructure hasn't be implemented but where supermarkets are not absent and, let's say also, the barcode innovation can be used to monitor, track and account -if necessary- any other "future" waste.

The main purpose of this proposal is not to be an alternative to the existing EPR law, but improve its impact through collaboration.

The whole EPR system structure is perfectly suited for minority trade.

Nevertheless, for their stockroom dimension, higher financial capacity, and increase in waste volume responsibility, they are certainly the Supermarket Chains who should be taking action for the waste it contributes.

Finally: why am I applying to this challenge?

Our oceans need strict laws. “Barcode v/s Plastic Waste” offers a strict control but it needs experts and stakeholders to spread and promote this ideas among decision makers: politicians.

Since the day I had the idea, I did my best to get in contact with any possible person who could have the chance to help the idea to become reality. 

The good news is that I have started to gain political attention: 

José Luis Samaniego, Director of Division for Sustainable Development and Human Settlements - ECLAC/CEPAL - United Nations wrote a letter supporting my proposal.

Daniel Jadue, Mayor of a Chilean City named Recoleta, started considering “Barcode v/s Plastic Waste” within his politic. The City is working on the creation of a pilot plan, giving me a change to improve my effort.

Both letters are in attachment to Barcode v/s Plastic Waste submitted in: Research  

If I win.

I started working on “Barcode v/s Plastic Waste” idea by the end of 2013, publishing the very first article on February 2014. 

On May 2014, I opened the page where I published the proposal in its 5 versions, which has been visited more than 4200 times from around 100 countries. (statistic in attachment)

My Twitter account @clara_salina has around 2000 followers almost all related with environment or nature.
I have never stopped promoting the idea and I won’t do it in the future.

Win this award would give me the possibility to make it better and go farer.

Last but not least, if I win I want to share the possibility to participate in the educational seminars part of the Accelerator Phase with a representer from Recoleta Municipality chosen by the Mayor.

Idea Title

We didn’t need so much plastic before supermarkets era, it is time to point on the true responsible of this change


I uploaded all documents I wrote at

Where are you / your team located?

I live in Chile and, until now, I worked alone

Which use cases does your Idea apply to?

Barcode v/s Plastic Waste is related with all Use Cases because it potentially eliminates all non recyclable plastic packaging, meanwhile fostering their simplification where they can't be replaced.

In what geographical context or area does your Idea plan to operate / solve?

Wherever there is a supermarket, Barcode v/s Plastic Waste can help to reduce or eliminate their impact on environment.

How do you envision scaling up your Idea?

I'm working trying to create a Pilot Plan in Chile. There is a Mayor available to work on this and ACLAC declared its interest. See letters on Barcode v/s Plastic Waste submission within Research. Having a Pilot Plan, the same Municipality is offering a space to promote the idea worldwide.

At what stage of development is your Idea?

  • Prototyping: You have conducted some small tests or experiments with prospective users and will continue developing idea through these tests.

Please describe how becoming a Top Idea and working with the Think Beyond Plastics Accelerator Program will help to accelerate your solution.

Most of times I propose this idea to politicians, they make the same question in reply: has it been applied somewhere? Politicians are the only recipient of this proposal, but BCvsPW won't have any change to become reality without experts supporting it. 99% of politicians won't consider it because it is coming from a common citizen, who I am. Becoming a Top Idea would give to BCvsPW another strong support to make its way to the places where can be be discussed and, hopefully, adopted.

Please describe from where your Idea emerged

I moved in Santiago (Chile) on 2006. Coming from Italy, protect environment was a daily duty for me. Not in Chile on 2006 and I desperately tried to make people aware about the environment, since the very first day I put my feet here. Plastic is an hidden enemy, most of people don't realize how dangerous it is. Nevertheless I failed. I failed for years even with my closest friends, for these reasons I realized that a real chance can't be based only on educational programs.

Tell us about your work experience

While in Europe, I have been working for years in Communication areas. The idea comes from common sense and my personal investigation. I used my experience in Communication field to spread it.

Please describe your legal and organizational structure

I have been spreading Barcode v/s Plastic Waste since almost 4 years now, but it is not my job. I'm acting like a PPRR


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