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Sainsbury’s ‘worst for plastic’

Greenpeace calls out Sainsbury’s as worst in class on plastics, and challenges supermarket to clean up its act
Katie Hill - Editor-in-Chief, My Green Pod
Sainsbury's worst for plastic

Sainsbury’s is the worst in class of all major UK supermarkets for cutting plastic packaging, according to Greenpeace analysis announced today (29 March).

The UK’s second-biggest supermarket is the target of a new campaign by Greenpeace, after it came last in a 2018 survey of supermarket plastic policies and was found to have made the least progress on plastics reduction since January last year.

The organisation is calling for Sainsbury’s to set yearly plastic reduction targets, and start by eliminating unnecessary and unrecyclable plastic by 2020.

‘Sainsbury’s knows that plastics pollute our oceans and harm wildlife. They know that customers care about cutting plastic. And they know their competitors have outdone them on plastics reductions measures. But they remain worst in class.

‘If supermarkets fail to cut their plastic packaging, they’re sending pollution on a conveyor belt that could end up in our rivers and seas. This has to stop. Sainsbury’s must eliminate unnecessary and unrecyclable plastic by 2020.’

Ocean plastics campaigner at Greenpeace UK

Sainsbury’s ‘worst performer’

Greenpeace looked at publicly available plastics pledges from the top 10 UK supermarkets since January 2018 and found Sainsbury’s was the worst performer.

Sainsbury’s promised to cut just 77 tonnes of plastic packaging, while Asda achieved 6,500 tonnes of reductions. Sainsbury’s published no information about the number of units of plastics cut, while Marks and Spencer and Co-op both reduced their output by more than 500m units.

Greenpeace analysis found that for the supermarkets that had announced how many tonnes of plastics would be cut, the average reduction was 2,217 tonnes – Sainsbury’s pledged to cut just 77 tonnes.

For those that announced how many units of plastics would be cut, the average reduction was 266.3m units. Sainsbury’s did not publish how many units of plastic it cut.

On average nine plastics pledges had been made, while Sainsbury’s announced just five new measures on plastics.

Recycling vs reduction

Despite plastic production being set to quadruple by 2050, retailers are still focusing more on recycling than reduction.

Most major supermarkets, including Sainsbury’s, have committed to eliminate non-recyclable plastic packaging by as late as 2025 as part of the UK Plastics Pact. The voluntary targets do not necessarily entail an overall plastics reduction.

Many retailers have additional targets to eliminate problematic plastics such as PVC, expanded polystyrene and black plastic within the next two years – but not Sainsbury’s.

Supermarkets’ action on plastics

The figures below show Greenpeace analysis of supermarkets’ reduction in tonnes of plastic, reduction in units of plastic and the number of reduction measures they have announced or introduced, for the period 01/01/18 to 27/03/19.

ALDI: 2,543.5 tonnes reduced; 80m units reduced; 7 reduction measures

ASDA: 6,500 tonnes reduced; 356.5m units reduced; 12 reduction measures

CO-OP: 1,888 tonnes reduced; 505m units reduced; 5 reduction measures

ICELAND: 2,000 tonnes reduced; 110.7m units reduced; 11 reduction measures

Lidl: 334 tonnes reduced; 72m units reduced; 4 reduction measures

MARKS AND SPENCER 1,000 tonnes reduced; 527.5m units reduced; 13 reduction measures

MORRISONS: 3,766 tonnes reduced; 557.5m units reduced; 10 reduction measures

SAINSBURY’S: 77 tonnes reduced; 5 reduction measures

TESCO: 1m units reduced; 6 reduction measures units reduced;

WAITROSE: 1,847 tonnes reduced; 186.6m units reduced; 13 reduction measures

AVERAGE: 2,217 tonnes reduced; 266.3m units reduced; 9 reduction measures

Tesco also performed badly

Every year the top 10 UK supermarkets place over 800,000 tonnes of single-use plastic packaging on the market, so Greenpeace UK is campaigning for concrete action now.

Since January 2018 Sainsbury’s had pledged to remove plastic wrapping on greetings cards, with a deadline of Monday April 1 this year. It removed plastic cups and cutlery from its head office; reduced the amount of plastics in some food cartons and it sells cauliflowers and some bananas loose. It offers a discount on hot drinks for customers using reusable cups.

The Greenpeace’s analysis shows Tesco also performed badly, introducing just six measures over the same time period. Tesco hadn’t published how many tonnes of reductions it aimed to achieve, but this week announced a trial of selling 45 lines of fruit and veg loose. It is phasing out 1m plastic straws from its cafés and will this year be the first to trial refillable packaging through the Loop scheme.

More than 922,000 people have signed Greenpeace’s petition calling for UK supermarkets to ditch throwaway plastic packaging. Sign the petition here.

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