Disposable plastics 'can be halved'

| 1st September 2020 |
Plastic carrier bags

Shopping being carried in plastic carrier bags

Greenpeace report calculates UK supermarkets use 114 billion pieces of plastic packaging each year.

The challenge to change our plastic habits is vast.

UK supermarkets could cut throwaway plastic by half in the next five years with moves like ditching packaging on fruit and vegetables and switching to reusable fizzy drinks bottles, campaigners said.

Targeting 54 specific grocery categories and either eliminating packaging altogether or changing to reusable systems could help towards a drastic drop in plastic, Greenpeace said.

In a new report it calculated that supermarkets in the UK used 114 billion pieces of plastic packaging last year.

Concern

The environmental organisation is now calling on the Government to set firm targets to at least halve usage of single-use plastics in supermarkets by 2025.

It said its analysis showed that changing packaging for 13 of the 54 categories including popular items like fizzy drinks, fruit and vegetables, and household detergents, supermarkets could cut plastic by around 35%.

This would remove 45 billion pieces of supermarket plastic, and remove more than 300,000 tonnes of plastic, Greenpeace said, likening it to the weight of more than 7,000 supermarket delivery lorries.

It said that bottled water, fizzy drinks, milk, vegetables and salads and wrapped fruit alone are collectively packaged in around 46 billion pieces of plastic, and are estimated to contribute 247,000 tonnes of plastic packaging every year.

The report states that: “Despite massive public concern, statements and commitments by governments and companies, this is a problem that continues to worsen.”

Celebrity

The group said its report gives the most up-to-date calculations of how much plastic packaging supermarkets are using and provides a unique sector-wide view for the first time.

As well as reducing and reusing Greenpeace said a recent shift to home delivery, amid the Covid-19 pandemic, “opens up huge potential for reusable packaging, as reuse is based on delivery from warehouses rather than stores”.

Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall, the celebrity chef, said customers need to “make” supermarkets want to hit the target Greenpeace has set out.

He said: “Greenpeace has worked out how supermarkets could halve their plastic packaging in just five years.

“That’s a brilliant target, and there’s no doubt the supermarkets could hit it if they really wanted to.

Habits

“We need to make them want to, by supporting every plastic reduction initiative and avoiding throwaway plastic where possible.

“Leave overpackaged plastic covered produce on the shelves, buy unpackaged produce whenever you see it, and switch to the shops and supermarkets who are making real changes that help you to shop with less plastic.

“We need to get the supermarkets competing to reduce plastic – by letting them know our continued custom depends on it.”

Nina Schrank, plastics campaigner at Greenpeace UK, said: “The challenge to change our plastic habits, move to widespread reuse and refill systems, and turn the tide on plastic pollution, is vast.

“It will not be easy but it will be possible, and we think UK supermarkets can do it.”

This Author

Aine Fox is a reporter with PA.

 

Help us keep The Ecologist working for the planet

The Ecologist website is a free service, published by The Resurgence Trust, a UK-based educational charity. We work hard - with a small budget and tiny editorial team - to bring you the wide-ranging, independent journalism we know you value and enjoy, but we need your help. Please make a donation to support The Ecologist platform. Thank you!

Donate to us here