Eliminating unnecessary plastic

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Karen Graley

Partner & Packaging Manager 

"We've cut our packaging by nearly 50% since 2009"

Our commitment

The impact of plastics on the environment is a serious concern for both our Partners and customers. We are determined to make all our own-brand packaging widely-recycled, reusable or home compostable by 2023.

The solutions will include removal of packaging where it is not needed, reduction of packaging and using alternative materials like home compostable film.

Find out more in our plastics plan or read on for a summary

Plastic serves several important functions in retail, including protecting products from damage in transit and helping preserve food for longer. However, we only want to use plastic when it is really needed and prevent it from entering the environment where it can cause damage to animals and ecosystems. We will achieve this in five steps: 

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Product Packaging 
 

We are removing and re-designing our packaging.
We are also introducing alternatives to non-recyclable plastics.

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Products we use
and sell 

We are removing unnecessary plastic from our product ranges that we sell and that we use as a business.

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Customers
 

We are working with our customers to understand which plastics really are unnecessary and trialling new ways of shopping.

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Supply chain 
 

We are working with our suppliers to understand where unnecessary plastic is used and reduce it.

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Plastic pollution and healthy oceans 

We are supporting organisations that are tackling plastic pollution through innovation and conservation.

Packaging cut by almost half, but more to do…

We’ve cut the amount of packaging in our shops by nearly 50% since 2009. In 2017 our own-brand products included 18,400 tonnes of plastic packaging which equates to 1.4 billion units. 70% of this is widely recycled and we want to increase this to 80% by 2020 and 100% by 2023.

By the end of 2019 we will have removed black plastic, which is difficult to recycle, from all our own-brand products.  By the end of 2018 we will have achieved this in meat, fish and poultry, and fruit and veg. This amounts to a reduction of 1,300 tonnes of black plastic which means we are more than half-way there. 

While removing black plastic we have also taken the opportunity to reduce the amount of plastic in many lines by removing trays from fruit and veg like apples, broccoli and pak choi. Where a tray is needed to protect delicate fruit and veg we have started to move to card alternatives.  

We have also launched innovations like our successful Duchy tomatoes in punnets made from waste tomato leaves. This will save 3.5 million plastic trays per year. 

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Eliminating unnecessary plastic products

We are committed to eliminating unnecessary plastic in the products that we use like carrier bags, coffee cups and on our counters and in the products that we sell like straws and cutlery.

We were the first supermarket to stop selling products containing microbeads in September 2016 and at the same time we switched our plastic stem cotton buds to paper.

Drinking straws

We removed wall packs of disposable plastic drinking straws from sale in our branches, replacing them with non-plastic alternatives. All our cafes only offer paper straws.

We are replacing loose fruit and veg plastic bags with home compostable alternatives by spring 2019. These can be used as food caddy liners by customers. At the same time we will introduce a reusable bag for fruit and veg for customers to buy. 

We have also committed to removing 5p single-use plastic carrier bags by March 2019 in all shops.  

We are also removing disposable coffee cups from our shops, which amounts to 52 million coffee cups per year. We provide customers with a choice of reusable alternatives

Encouraging customers to avoid waste

Since March 2018 our customers have been able to bring their own clean and lidded reusable containers to our counters to take home cold products. This has contributed to a reduction of 5 million deli counter bags since 2017. We are also going to trial more comprehensive loose fruit and veg range and work with our customers to understand which products still need protection to maintain quality and avoid waste.

Working with our suppliers

Plastics are also used throughout supermarket supply chains. In 2018 we signed up to the Global Ghost Gear Initiative which aims to protect marine life and minimise plastic pollution from abandoned fishing equipment.

We will be working with stakeholders across the fishing industry to find solutions to lost and discarded fishing equipment.

We also shared our plans at our supplier and farming conferences and asked them to work with us to address plastics through our supply chains.
 

Tackling plastic pollution

We want to tackle plastic pollution beyond our direct influence in our supply chains, products, shops and communities. 

In 2017/2018 we have donated £1 million to the Marine Conservation Society and £500,000 to the Commonwealth Marine Plastics Research and Innovation Challenge Fund. We are stepping up our activity in this area to help to fast-track solutions for all. 

We are also putting forward a further £1 million in grants to fund projects targeting the prevention of plastic pollution and/or the impact it causes.