UK: Supermarkets’ single-use plastic waste rises to nearly 1 mln tons a year

Despite public commitments to cut down on their packaging, supermarkets' use of single-use plastic has risen to more than 900,000 tons a year. Seven out of the 10 major UK supermarkets increased their plastic footprint over the last year, with only Waitrose, Tesco and Sainsbury's achieving 'marginal' reductions.

According to a report by Greenpeace and the Environmental Investigation Agency, Waitrose topped the ranking of the major supermarkets, according to their commitments to reduce single-use plastic, eliminate non-recyclable packaging, engage with supply chains and transparent reporting, followed by Morrisons and Sainsbury's.

Lidl, Asda and Aldi were the three worst performers. Iceland dropped from the top spot last year to seventh place this year, while Sainsbury's climbed to third from the bottom of last year's table.

Waitrose and Morrisons scored highly after reducing or setting targets to reduce plastic packaging and trialling refill initiatives. Sainsbury's announced plans to reduce plastic by 50% and introduced reusable produce bags for loose fruit and vegetables. Leading brands which failed to respond to the survey for the second year running included Ocado, Best-One and Booker Group.

Plastic packaging used by 10 biggest stores increased
Overall, total plastic packaging used by the UK's 10 biggest supermarkets increased from an estimated 886,000 tons in 2017 to 903,000 tons in 2018. Figures have not yet been compiled for this year, in which various supermarkets have made further promises on reducing plastic usage.

The rise was mainly driven by sales of branded products, with plastic packaging associated with those items increasing by nearly 20,000 tons, the report said.

The EIA and Greenpeace are urging supermarkets to work towards eliminating single-use plastic altogether by offering packaging-free products or switching to reusable and refillable alternatives. They warned that 'false solutions' such as swapping plastic for cardboard or making plastic thinner are 'unacceptable'.


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