Around one million tonnes of plastic are generated by British supermarkets each year. To reduce its own impact, Iceland will harness new technologies to create a range of packaging containing paper and pulp trays alongside fully recyclable paper bags.

Iceland’s managing director Richard Walker said that with new technologies in place, there is “no excuse” for retailers to create excessive packaging that damage the environment.  

“The world has woken up to the scourge of plastics,” Walker said. “A truckload is entering our oceans every minute, causing untold damage to our marine environment and ultimately humanity – since we all depend on the oceans for our survival.

“The onus is on retailers, as leading contributors to plastic packaging pollution and waste, to take a stand and deliver meaningful change. Other supermarkets, and the retail industry as a whole, should follow suit and offer similar commitments during 2018. This is a time for collaboration.”

Iceland recently gave its support to a national plastic bottle return scheme, which is being weighed up by the UK Government.

Call to arms

The general public are fully on board with the need to tackle on plastic packaging waste, according to research. A survey of 5,000 consumers found that 80% would endorse a supermarket’s move to go plastic-free, while 91% would be more likely to encourage friends and family to shop there.

Experts from Greenpeace, which was consulted by Iceland before its announcement, are calling on competitors to follow the frozen food specialist’s lead.

“It’s now up to other retailers and food producers to respond to that challenge,” Greenpeace executive director John Suaven said.

“The tidal wave of plastic pollution will only start to recede when they turn off the tap. They know the scale of systemic change we need, and yet their responses have been timid and piecemeal. Iceland has offered a more radical solution that shows the way forward for the sector.”

The war on plastic waste played a central role in the UK’s 25-year Environment Plan, launched last week. The headline figure was a Government vow to eliminate avoidable plastic waste by 2042.

Ministers will work with supermarkets to encourage them to introduce plastic-free aisles in which all the food is loose, and consult on the introduction of a tax system to reduce the amount of single-use plastic waste is created by packaging and containers such as takeaway boxes.

George Ogleby

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