Produce Packaging Project 

You can make a difference!

Let’s show the supermarkets how much wasteful packaging they use on produce in Hong Kong supermarkets!

Project Goal

Reduce the use of produce packaging in Hong Kong supermarkets, and raise consumer awareness on this issue.

Action Plan

  1. With the help of citizen science volunteers, we will gather data on the current use of produce packaging in supermarkets
  2. We will engage supermarket decision-makers in discussion about their use of produce packaging
  3. We will discuss reduction targets and timelines

Which Supermarkets?

100+ supermarkets around HK including:

Market Place, City Super, Fusion, ParknShop, Wellcome, Yata, Taste, International, AEON and U Select

    For each supermarket, photos of all fresh produce will be taken and their packaging will be classified for analysis.


    To read more about single-use plastic packaging (SUP) and why it is an issue, click on the button below

    About Produce Packaging

    Produce packaging provides a variety of perceived benefits from the point of view of all stakeholders: the producers, suppliers, retailers and the customers. It can protect fragile products; extend shelf life; promote a brand; provide product information; provide hygiene; and enhance convenience (e.g. easier for the product to be displayed, easier for scanning at the checkout).

    There are also negatives associated with packaging. It can:

    • create waste which is often not recycled or recyclable
    • end up in the marine environment
    • encourage people to buy more than they need (creating food waste along with other undesirable outcomes according to a recent study done by Greener’s Action in Hong Kong).

    This campaign aims to identify the volume of produce that is packaged versus not packaged, whether the produce is packaged by the producer/ supplier or by the supermarket and whether the packaging is deemed unnecessary within the scope of this campaign.

    Packaging or No Packaging

    All produce is sold either packaged or ‘loose’ (no packaging).

    In-house Packaged or Producer Packaged 

    Whether the produce has been packaged ‘in-house’ by the supermarket or by the ‘producer’ is an important fact to identify. If it has been packaged ‘in-house’, the supermarket has control to stop using packaging. If it has been packaged by the producer, the supermarket has less control over the use of packaging in the short term.

    In-house packaged: packaging usually has a supermarket price label with product name and price on it; no producer logo or brand

    Producer-packaged: packaging usually has a logo or brand either as a label or directly on the packaging

    In-house packaged
    Supermarket price label clearly shown, no brand label

    The brand label is shown, no supermarket price label is visible

    Some may have a supermarket price label but it will also have an obvious brand label

    Some may have a supermarket price label with a small, not-so-obvious brand label

    Unnecessary Packaging

    For the purpose of this project, we are looking at the use of packaging to protect fragile produce. If produce is not considered fragile yet has packaging, it will be identified as ‘unnecessary’. Packaging will be deemed ‘unnecessary’ if it meets the following criteria:

    • Packaging on produce that has a hard protective shell
    • Packaging on produce that is also sold loose. If it is commonly sold loose then the packaging is clearly not needed
    • Excessive packaging including multiple layers
    • Decorative packaging

    Examples of produce with a hard protective shell: pineapple, coconut, squash, pumpkin, durian, melon, etc.

    Examples of produce often sold loose: orange, apple, mango, pear, grapefruit, kiwi, avocado, lemon, lime, peach, banana, papaya, nectarine, plum, dragon fruit, cabbage, cucumber, ginger, potato, onion, eggplant (aubergine), cauliflower, broccoli, peppers (capsicum), corn on the cob, tomatoes (except small ‘cherry’ tomatoes), turnip, zucchini (courgette), etc.

    For the scope of this project, the following packaged produce will not be deemed unnecessary due to the fact that these products are regularly sold packaged in supermarkets in HK: grapes, cherry tomatoes, beans, baby corn, okra, berries, etc. (particularly imported items). This does not mean that we feel that these items cannot also be sold loose, but these are not the immediate focus of this project.


    Examples of Unnecessary Packaging

    Excessive & Decorative Packaging

    Hard Protective Shell

    Produce Often Sold Loose

    Prepared Produce 

    Some produce is cut, peeled, sliced, or cooked which creates an unnecessary ‘need’ for packaging, reduces the shelf life and might require refrigeration. Note that most prepared, or ‘cut’, produce is done in-house, using packaging such as cling film or a cup and lid but there is some ‘producer’ packaged cut produce which will have a brand or logo indicated on the packaging.

    Sliced In-house

    Cut In-house

    Peeled In-house

    Cooked, Producer packaged

    1. Take Photos

    The goal is to document ALL of the produce in the store with photos. You can use your mobile phone. On average you may need to take between 50 and 150 pictures depending on the size of the produce section, so be organised in your photo taking. Try to include more than one item in each photo, but no more than five types of produce. Each picture will be labelled as either having ‘loose’ or ‘packaged’ produce, and ‘supermarket’ packaged or ‘producer’ packaged produce so try to include only that type of produce within one photograph. If this is not possible, you can duplicate the photo later for file naming purposes like in the photos below.. (You may take photos of individual produce but you will have to take and label many more pictures.)

    Tips for taking photos:

        • Make sure the items in the photos are clear (not blurred)
        • Be systematic – start at one end of the produce section, and at the top or bottom of a row, and continue on along each row. For units with multiple shelves, you may wish to take the photos starting from top to bottom and from left to right
        • To make it easier to keep track, take photos with a little overlap when you are taking multiple photos in an aisle or on a shelving unit.
        • Try to include only in-house or packaged produce, only loose or packaged produce or unnecessary packaging in one photo. If you have more than one category in a photo, duplicate the photo and name the file appropriately. See below how to name files. 

    Preparing the Photos

    Transfer all the photos to a computer or other device where you can easily rename the photos. The photos should be in JPEG format (with an ending of .jpeg or .jpg).

    The photos are named to identify:
    a) whether there is packaging
    b) whether the packaging is deemed unnecessary
    c) whether the produce was packaged in the supermarket or by the producer
    d) the type of produce
    e) if the produce has been prepared in any way (cut, sliced, cooked)

    Rename the photos on your device using the identifiers below:

    LO – unpackaged ‘loose’ produce
    UN – packaged produce that is deemed ‘unnecessary’
    IH – packaged ‘in-house’ by the supermarket
    PRO – packaged by the ‘producer’
    CUT – produce that has been ‘cut’
    UNSURE – if you do not know something about the produce in the photo

    Naming the photo files:

    Please retain the original filename and add identifiers following the steps below.

    1. Unpackaged ‘loose’ produce will be identified with LO. No identifier is needed to indicate that it is packaged.
    2. For packaged produce, identify ‘unnecessary’ packaging (as per the definition above) with UN. No identifier is needed to indicate that it is not deemed unnecessary.
    3. Packaged produce will be identified next by the source of the packaging: for produce packaged ‘in-house’ by the supermarket use IH, or if packaged by the producer use PRO.
    4. The type of produce is recorded next (e.g. orange, apple, mango, broccoli, grapes, etc.)
    5. If the produce has been cut, use CUT after the produce type. 6. If you are unsure about anything in the photo, please include as much information as you can and add UNSURE at the end of the photo name

    Different brands and varieties of the same type of produce in one photo can be counted and recorded together. For multiple products, name them with a comma between each produce type. (e.g. 2x orange, 3x apple, pear)

    If a picture has a mixture of loose and packaged produce, in-house and producer packaged produce, or unnecessary packaging, duplicate the pictures so that there are separate pictures for each. This is necessary for the photo naming.

    Examples of photo file names

    <Original filename> LO Pepper
    (no packaging)

    <Original filename> PRO Cherry tomato
    (producer packaging)

    <Original filename> UN IH Durian CUT
    (unnecessary in-house pkg, cut)

    <Original filename> UN PRO Coconut
    (unnecessary producer pkg)

    This photo should be duplicated 3 times, and given these 4 file names:

    1. <Original filename> IH 2x beans
    (2 beans on the top row are In-house packaged)

    2. <Original filename> UN PRO pepper, tomato, cucumber
    (Tomatoes & peppers on the top, & the cucumber on the lower row, are Unnecessary, Producer packaged)

    3. <Original filename> LO zucchini, eggplant
    (Zucchini & eggplant on the lower row have no packaging)

    4. <Original filename> UN IH eggplant
    (Eggplant on the lower row is Unnecessary, In-house packaged)

    Taking photos of a row of different produce:

    Here are examples of how to take multiple pictures in a row to help record properly and avoid missing or duplicating produce in your pictures, and the associated file names. Each picture can overlap a bit from the precious one for ease of use.

    1. File Name: <Original filename> LO Orange (1st pic)

    2. File Name: <Original filename> UN PRO Banana (2nd pic)

    3. File Name: <Original filename> LO Banana (2nd pic duplicated)

    4. File Name: <Original filename> LO Dragon fruit, Mango (3rd pic)

    1. File Name: <Original filename> UN PRO Pumpkin (1st pic)

    2. File Name: <Original filename> LO Pumpkin (1st pic duplicated)

    3. File Name: <Original filename> LO 2x Pumpkin (2nd pic)

    4. File Name: <Original filename> IH 2 x Beans, Leafy greens (3rd pic)

    5. File Name: <Original filename> UN IH Okra, Cabbage (3rd pic duplicated)


    Grouping and naming the produce:

    To identify the specific types of produce in the photo, you can group certain items (Click on this for the grouping list)

        • Group all types of mushrooms as ‘mushroom’
        • Group melons (瓜) such as watermelons, cantaloupe, etc as ‘melon’ 
        • Group pumpkins, squash and gourds together as ‘pumpkin’ 
        • Group all leafy greens (choys 菜) as ‘leafy green’ 
        • Group all types of beans (green beans, peas, etc.) as ‘bean’
        • Group all types of herbs (coriander, rosemary, etc.) as ‘herb’
        • Group all types of cabbages as ‘cabbage’
        • Group all types of lettuce including spinach, kale, endive, etc as ‘lettuce’
        • Group big tomatoes as ‘tomato’ (unnecessary packaging) and small tomatoes as ‘cherry tomato’
        • If the produce is a package of mixed items, record it as ‘mixed fruit’ or ‘mixed vegetables’

    3. Upload Your Photos

    Create a folder in Google Drive, named with the supermarket and address. Upload your pictures to this folder. Create a link to your folder and share it to [email protected]. Please set the sharing to anyone with the link can view. If you do not use Google Drive, please contact us.

    How To Get Started

    If you would like to help, please fill in this google form, providing your name, email, and the area of HK you wish to visit a supermarket in. Choose a location which is conveniently located (near your school, work or home). You will find  a list of supermarkets in your area to select from on the form. Note that once you choose a supermarket, it will be removed from the list. If you are unable to complete the activity, please contact us to let us know so we can reallocate the supermarket.

    The volunteer activity has three parts:
    1. Take photos of all fruits and vegetables in your supermarket
    2. Review the photos and rename them
    3. Share your photos with us

    All of the information you require can be found above.

    Important: If the supermarket staff asks what you are doing, explain that you are doing a citizen science project with registered charity Plastic Free Seas, and if necessary show them this letter. If they still ask you not to take photographs, do not insist, politely leave the store, then let us know by email.


    What if supermarket staff object to my photo-taking?

    Please show them this letter from Plastic Free Seas and tell them the purpose of your photo-taking. Do not insist on taking photos if they continue to object, and contact us. 

    What should I do if I cannot use Google Drive?

    You may save your photos on other platforms such as OneDrive and Dropbox, and share your folder with us at [email protected]

    What if my plans change and I cannot do the work?

    Just let us know by email at [email protected]

    What if I have other questions or a problem?

    Feel free to contact us at [email protected]

    CAS (Creativity, Activity & Service) opportunities for students

    Speak to your CAS or Service Learning supervisor if you would like to use this volunteer activity towards your curriculum requirements.

    Did You Know?

    One of the most widely used environmental apps combing AI technology with Citizen Science is iNaturalist which is used globally to identify plants and animals. It has had more than 55 million observations recorded!

    Did You Know?

    AI is seen by some as more of a threat, competing for jobs and intruding on people’s private lives, than a helpful tool and ally for the future development of human life, culture and environmental preservation.