White paper bags, which Iceland claims are widely-recycled and degradable, will be offered to shoppers in Merseyside stores for 10p under the scheme, as Iceland researches whether customers are willing to pay for plastic-free alternatives.. 

Depending on the results of the eight-week trial, the paper bags could be rolled out to Iceland’s 800 UK stores as the chain seeks to minimise its plastic output and drive behaviour change among its customers.

Iceland’s managing director, Richard Walker, said the scheme will “empower” consumers to reduce their plastic use in the wake of a report from the Ellen MacArthur Foundation, which predicted there will be more plastic than fish in the sea, by weight, by 2050.

“We’re already taking steps to deliver on our commitment to remove plastics, and of course single-use carriers are a significant part of the plastic we have in store, used by our customers every day,” Walker said.

“The trial will provide us with an in-depth insight into how we can remove single-use carrier bags, while offering an alternative that is fit for purpose and works for our customers.”

Since the Government’s introduction of a 5p levy on single-use plastic bags in 2015, Iceland has seen customer bag use reduce by 80%, the company said in a statement.

However, the firm still uses three million small carrier bags every week and hopes the paper alternatives could help reduce this quantity. Both the paper and plastic bags will carry the 10p cost to encourage customers to use reusable alternatives where possible.

Plastics action

Iceland has become widely known for its actions to tackle plastics after committing in January to remove all single-use plastic packaging from its own-brand products by 2023 – an unprecedented pledge within the supermarket sector.

Since then, the chain has adopted a new “plastic-free” mark designed to help consumers make informed choices on plastic packaging, trialled reverse vending machines in its stores and publicly shown support for a nationwide deposit return scheme for plastic bottles.

Iceland’s own label & packaging manager, Ian Schofield, recently claimed that customer demand for big-name brands to phase out single-use plastics means the supermarket industry must be “fearless” in pursuing “ambitious” plastic goals in the wake of the January 2018 release of the Government’s 25-Year Environment Plan – which pledged to eliminate all “avoidable” plastics waste by 2042.

Other supermarkets to made plastic reduction pledges recently include WaitroseTesco and Asda, while Co-op has put in place a long-term ambition for 100% of its product packaging to be recyclable, with an immediate target of 80% by 2020 already in place. 

Meanwhile, Morrisons last week announced that it would be banning single-use plastic bags in produce aisles at all of its stores, offering customers paper alternatives instead.

Sarah George

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