Frozen food retailer Iceland has announced it will become the first major retailer globally to eliminate plastic packaging from all of its own brand products by the end of 2023.
The company says that the process starts now and that it will be an important step towards cutting down on the one million tonnes of plastic generated by supermarkets in the UK each year.
In its place, Iceland says it will be harnessing the latest technologies to create a range of packaging, comprising paper and pulp trays along with paper bags which are fully recyclable through domestic waste collection or in-store recycling facilities, and therefore less harmful to the environment.
Iceland has already removed plastic disposable straws from its own label range. And its new food ranges, which are set to hit the shelves early this year, will feature paper-based rather than plastic food trays.
Iceland Managing Director, Richard Walker, is driving this initiative to demonstrate the potential for the entire supermarket retail sector to go plastic-free as far as possible.
He said: “The world has woken up to the scourge of plastics. A truckload is entering our oceans every minute, causing untold damage to our marine environment and ultimately humanity – since we all depend on the oceans for our survival.
“The onus is on retailers, as leading contributors to plastic packaging pollution and waste, to take a stand and deliver meaningful change.
“Other supermarkets, and the retail industry as a whole, should follow suit and offer similar commitments during 2018. This is a time for collaboration.
“There really is no excuse any more for excessive packaging that creates needless waste and damages our environment. The technologies and practicalities to create less environmentally harmful alternatives exist, and so Iceland is putting a stake in the ground.”
Throughout the process, Iceland says it has consulted regularly with Greenpeace experts. They have called on competitors to follow Iceland’s lead.
John Sauven, Greenpeace Executive Director, commented: “Last month a long list of former heads of Britain’s biggest retail groups wrote a joint statement to explain that the only solution to plastic pollution was for retailers to reject plastic entirely in favour of more sustainable alternatives like recycled paper, steel, glass and aluminium. Now Iceland has taken up that challenge with its bold pledge to go plastic free within five years. It’s now up to other retailers and food producers to respond to that challenge.
“The tidal wave of plastic pollution will only start to recede when they turn off the tap. They know the scale of systemic change we need, and yet their responses have been timid and piecemeal. Iceland has offered a more radical solution that shows the way forward for the sector.”
- It is estimated more than 12 million tonnes of plastic enters the world’s oceans every year, putting the lives of all forms of marine life at risk, from larger animals through to plankton, and there are fears that toxins originating from plastics are then re-entering the food chain via seafood.
Plastic also creates a significant recycling issue – statistics suggest only a third of plastics are recycled in the UK – the remainder either ends up in landfill, incinerated or is discarded illegally.