Iceland to trial UK’s first major plastic-bag-free store

Both trials will last six months

In what it claims is a first for the UK, Iceland’s Hackney store will offer a complete range of plastic-free bags for customers. Lighter weight paper carrier bags (10p), jute bags (£1), Disney branded cotton bags (£1), and small paper bags for meat products will all be on offer, replacing plastic bags.

Paper bags capable of holding up to 16kg – around 70 packs of Iceland burgers – will also be trialled alongside plastic bags for life at 25 stores in North Wales, Wirral and Cheshire. An additional 15 stores in Manchester will then be used to monitor consumer preference of the two options.

It is anticipated that the trials will collectively save more than 210,000 plastic carrier bags from being purchased.

Iceland’s managing director Richard Walker said: “We know that many customers are using ‘bags for life’ only once and the retail industry needs to work together to challenge this behaviour and find alternative solutions. Over 1.2 billion plastic bags for life were sold last year in the UK and this needs to change drastically.

“These trials will help us to understand how our customers feel about removing one of the most common objects associated with plastic, the supermarket carrier bag, and how they respond to various alternatives. We’re looking forward to seeing how customers respond and using the results of the trials in our wider plans to reduce our plastic footprint.”

Both trials will last six months, with consumer attitudes and purchasing data to be analysed throughout.

Leading the charge

The move from Iceland builds on its commitment to remove all single-use plastic packaging from its own-brand products by 2023 – an unprecedented pledge within the supermarket sector.

The firm has additionally adopted a new “plastic-free” mark designed to help consumers make informed choices on plastic packaging, publicly shown support for a nationwide deposit return scheme for plastic bottles and trialled reverse vending machines in its stores. Between May 2018 and January 2019, the retailer collected more than 300,000 plastic bottles using reverse-vending machines at four UK stores and its head office.

Earlier this year, the company trialled the removal of plastic packaging from its fruit and vegetable lines at one of its largest UK stores

Since making its commitment in January 2018, Iceland has reduced or removed plastic packaging across 81 lines and removed more than 1,500 tonnes of plastic in its packaging.

Matt Mace

Action inspires action. Stay ahead of the curve with sustainability and energy newsletters from edie