Supermarket plastic has risen to more than 900,000 tonnes – despite retailers making public commitments to cut down their plastic packaging.
An Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA) and Greenpeace report, ‘Checking out on plastics II: Breakthroughs and backtracking from supermarkets’, reveals that seven out of the top 10 UK supermarkets had increased their plastic footprint. Only Waitrose, Tesco and Sainsbury’s had achieved marginal reductions.
Waitrose and Morrisons on top
Waitrose and Morrisons were the best performers, while Asda and Aldi were bottom of the table.
Iceland dropped from the top spot last year to seventh place this year, while Sainsbury’s went from bottom of the 2018 league table to third place this year.
Eight supermarkets pumped out 58.3bn billion pieces of plastic packaging.
Other leading brands failed to respond to the survey for the second year running, including Ocado, Best-One and Booker Group.
‘It’s shocking to see that despite unprecedented awareness of the pollution crisis, the amount of single-use plastic used by the UK’s biggest supermarkets has actually increased in the past year.
‘Our survey shows that grocery retailers need to tighten up targets to drive real reductions in single-use packaging and items. We need to address our throwaway culture at root through systems change, not materials change – substituting one single-use material for another is not the solution.’
EIA Ocean Campaigner
Switch to refills
EIA and Greenpeace are urging supermarkets to work towards eliminating single-use plastic all together, by offering packaging-free products or switching to reusable and refillable packaging. False solutions such as swapping plastic for cardboard, or simply making plastic thinner are unacceptable.
The survey revealed that big brands that supply supermarkets were a driving factor behind the rise in plastic packaging, showing supermarkets had failed to force their suppliers to take action.
Only Tesco had given suppliers an ultimatum to cut excessive plastic or face products being delisted, and campaigners urge others to follow suit.
Another factor in rising plastic was that supermarkets which saw their sales grow last year failed to cut plastic along the way, meaning that when they sold more goods, they sold more plastic too.