Asda joins wave of supermarkets pledging to cut plastic waste

Asda has become the latest supermarket to join the war against plastic by pledging to reduce it "wherever" it can, including slashing the amount in its own-brand packaging by 10% in the next 12 months.

In a series of measures, Asda promised to scrap 5p carrier bags in all stores by the end of the year, switch 2.4m plastic straws used in its cafes to paper and introduce reusable drinks cups in its shops and cafes by the end of 2019.

“Where we are able to go faster and harder to remove avoidable plastics from our products, we will,” said Asda chief executive Roger Burnley. “Our logic is to remove plastic wherever we can, and where it is required, to make it as recyclable as possible.”

The initiative comes after a Guardian investigation exposed how supermarkets are coming under growing pressure to reveal the amount of plastic they create, and pay more towards its safe disposal.

Amid mounting concern about the devastating environmental impact of plastic pollution around the globe, the Guardian revealed in January that the UK’s leading supermarkets create almost one million tonnes of plastic packaging waste every year.

Asda was among leading retailers which refused to reveal the exact amount of waste they trigger, saying the information was “commercially sensitive”.

Last year, the former boss of the chain, owned by US company Walmart, called for supermarkets to stop using plastic packaging and said billions of pounds of investment in recycling had failed to resolve the plastic crisis.

Andy Clarke, Asda’s chief executive for six years, said the only solution was for retailers to reject plastic entirely in favour of alternatives such as paper, steel, glass and aluminium.

In January Iceland became the first major UK retailer to commit to eliminating plastic packaging for all its own-brand products, pledging to go plastic-free within five years.

Environmental groups said Asda’s move did not go far enough. Friends of the Earth waste campaigner Julian Kirby said: “Asda’s pledge to slash plastic use is certainly very welcome – but why can’t it copy Iceland’s lead and ditch plastics from all its own-brand products? Supermarkets should pull the plug on plastic packaging altogether – a move advocated by former Asda boss, Andy Clarke.”

Trewin Restorick of the environmental charity Hubbub called for “a collaborative approach from retailers, manufactures and the recycling industry. We are in danger of too many piecemeal initiatives causing more consumer confusion without creating a solution at scale.”

Tisha Brown, oceans campaigner at Greenpeace, commented: “A 10% reduction in own brand products over one year doesn’t beat Iceland’s pledge. If Asda applied the same tactic to reducing plastics as it does to competing on price, we’d be really impressed.”

Rebecca Smithers

This article first appeared on the Guardian

edie is part of the Guardian Environment Network

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