Fishing for Plastic: Asda helps seafood suppliers collect ocean plastic pollution

Asda has unveiled plans to equip all of its seafood suppliers' boats with equipment that will enable workers to collect plastic pollution while bringing in the catch.

Trials of the bags collected a range of debris, from plastic bags to discarded plastic fishing gear, known as ghost gear 

Trials of the bags collected a range of debris, from plastic bags to discarded plastic fishing gear, known as ghost gear 

Under the initiative, called Fishing for Plastic, crews on more than 500 vessels are being given specially designed bags which purport to collect plastic debris of varying sizes.

The bags are designed to collect plastic at the same time as the catch is brought in, without extra processes for the fishing crews. They are being distributed, in the first instance, to vessels which catch mackerel, pollock, tuna, cod, haddock and wild salmon for Asda’s own-brand lines, as these are the supermarket’s best-selling seafood lines.

Fishing crews will also be given training on how best to manage the collected plastic waste once it is brought ashore, so it does not end up polluting nature or being sent to landfill.

“At Asda, we’ve worked hard to reduce and remove plastic from across the business but we always looking for ways to further our commitment to protecting the planet and working with our suppliers to tackle the wider issue of plastic pollution is vitally important,” Asda’s sustainability manager Laura Babbs said.

According to the Ellen MacArthur Foundation, There are more than 86 million tonnes of plastics in the oceans, with up to 12 million tonnes added each year. The Foundation has predicted that if this trajectory continues, there could be more plastics than fish in the oceans, by weight, by 2050.

Plastic progress

Asda’s wider plastics strategy is rooted in WRAP’s UK Plastics Pact, which sets four main minimum requirements on signatories against a 2025 deadline. It binds signatories to eliminating unnecessary single-use packaging through redesign; making all plastic packaging 100% reusable, recyclable or compostable; achieving recycling and composting rates of 70% or more for packaging, and including 30% recycled content across all packaging.

Since signing the pact, Asda has removed around 8,000 tonnes of plastic from across the business. It is targeting a 15% reduction in plastic use by weight by February 2021, against a 2017 baseline.

The retailer is working towards the Pact’s requirement for all plastic packaging to be 100% reusable, recyclable or compostable in line with the 2025 deadline. But, in a bid to spur broader progress, is applying the same commitment to packaging made from other materials.

On the recycled content and recycling rates commitments, Asda recently brought forward commitments to ensure that 30% of plastics used in packaging comes from recycled feedstocks, originally set for 2025, forward to 2020.

Responding to the launch of 'Fishing for Plastic', WRAP's strategic engagement manager Helen Bird said: “Keeping plastic waste out of the natural environment is central to the aims of The UK Plastics Pact, so we welcome this move from one of our founding members. Collaborative working across supply chains is the only way we can tackle the issue of plastic pollution effectively.”

Sarah George



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