Let’s be honest; you don’t have to look too far to find pictures, videos, and distress calls from charity organisations in regards to the plastic crisis that we have in the world. Plastic is a huge problem in our society, and when you really think about it, it’s not hard to see why. Whenever customers head to the supermarket, they are greeted with plastic bottles, plastic packaging, and whole walls of single-use plastic that ultimately end up in the bin. According to the World Wildlife Fund, those living in Britain produced a whopping 4.9 million tonnes of plastic waste in 2014, and only 1.2 million of it was recycled. This leaves the rest of it lying in landfill, where it can often take up to hundreds of years to decompose. So, what are the major UK supermarkets doing about it?
UK Supermarkets and businesses signing a pact
Although there’s no doubt about the fact that we still have a long way to go to eliminate the amount of plastic making its way into landfill, major supermarket chains have acknowledged that change needs to be made. In an attempt to make this change happen, the Waste and Resources Programme decided to create the UK Plastics Pact in 2018, and they approached a huge number of food and drink manufacturers and sellers to see if they would sign it.
Amazingly, over 120 organisations signed the pact, and noted that they would attempt to hit various targets by 2025. These targets noted that 100% of plastic packaging used in 2025 would be reusable, recyclable, or compostable, and unnecessary single-use plastic would be stripped away from the industry. This was a major development in the plastic crisis, but many supermarkets also have their own targets – and some of them are already being met.
Keen to get on top of the plastic crisis, Waitrose has brought their own personal targets forward to 2023, where they hope to eliminate all single-use plastics from their stores and create eco-friendly and compostable alternatives to their packaging.
Amazingly, they have also transformed some of their Waitrose stores into Waitrose Unpacked. The company trialled a packaging-free store in June 2019 and created stations where customers could refill their own containers with numerous dry goods and frozen items. It was such a huge success that they have since done the same within two other stores in the United Kingdom.
If you shop at the Co-op, you may also have noticed that they have made some serious changes over the years. In fact, they aim to remove all traces of hard-to-recycle dark and black plastics by this year (2020), and that’s before we mention their amazing bags.
While the plastic carrier bag charge has dissuaded some customers from using these bags on a regular basis, Co-op wanted to make sure that their customers could get something extra out of their bags. So, they created compostable green bags that still cost the customer the usual 5p – but then could be used as food waste bags that would soon turn to compost alongside their vegetable and fruit trimmings.
Sainsbury’s is a huge player in the sustainable game, and while one of the main reasons for that is because they have become leaders in terms of vegetarian and vegan food, they are also on a mission to reduce the amount of plastic in their stores. This supermarket is putting this responsibility solely in their own hands and is taking away some of the guilt from the customers with their “Pre-cycle” recycling scheme.
While their products will still come packaged – ultimately with packaging that is more widely recycled – they also allow their customers to dispose of this packaging before they leave the store. Yes, this means that you can buy your products, and then throw the packaging away before you go home and have to dispose of it yourself. They hope that this will allow them to recycle more, and in an efficient way that will go back into the business.
While most UK supermarkets haven’t gone completely plastic-free, there’s no doubt about the fact that change is on the horizon… Why not make your own change with these plastic-free swaps?