News

November 15, 2018

Supermarkets flood Britain with 59 billion pieces of plastic each year

News Source: The Telegraph

Author(s): Sarah Knapton

British households are bringing home an average of 38 pieces of plastic packaging a week from supermarkets, new research has found.

The top seven major food retailers are responsible for putting 59 billion pieces of plastic into circulation each year, more than 2,000 for each household, figures from the Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA)and Greenpeace UK found.

The leading supermarkets are also producing 1.1 billion single-use bags, almost one billion bags for life and 1.2 billion plastic produce bags for fruit and vegetables.

However despite the alarming plastic footprint, half of the grocery retailers surveyed, including Tesco, Sainsburys and Waitrose have no specific reduction targets.

Sarah Baulch, EIA Senior Ocean Campaigner, said: “Decisions taken by supermarkets today are resulting in thousands of plastic items flooding British homes every year.

“Despite public pressure for action on plastic being at an all-time high, our survey shows that UK supermarket giants are failing to keep up.

“Waste from the UK impacts wildlife and communities around the world and it’s high time that supermarkets move beyond incremental change and fundamentally rethink their relationship with single-use plastic packaging.”

In the Britain, the grocery sector is the largest user of plastic packaging, accounting for over half of the 1.5 million tonnes of consumer plastic packaging used in retail every year

But only around one third  is recycled with most ending up in landfill, being incinerated or finding its way into the natural environment.

The Ellen MacArthur Foundation has estimated that unless more is done to stop plastic entering the oceans the amount of waste will outweigh fish by 2050.

The report showed that Tesco produced the highest amount of plastic, some 261,204 tonnes of single-use packaging annually, followed by Sainsbury’s with 119,764 and Morrisons with 100,155 tonnes.

However when market share was taken into account, Iceland had the highest footprint with over 14,000 tonnes per 1 per cent market share and Aldi the second highest, with just under 12,000 tonnes.

At the other end of the scale, Co-op’s footprint was lowest at around 4,700 tonnes, followed by Waitrose with 6,280 tonnes

Greenpeace UK Oceans Campaigner Elena Polisano said: “Plastic pollution is now a full-blown environmental crisis and our supermarkets are right at the heart of it.

“Much of the throwaway plastic packaging filling up our homes comes from supermarket shelves, but high-street giants are still not taking full responsibility for it.”

Co-op was found to top the leaderboard for share of own-brand products that are widely recyclable (79 per cent), while most others fall behind with around a third of their plastic (by weight) not widely recyclable.

Many supermarkets have taken action to end sales or provision of disposable items such as straws, cutlery and cotton buds, ahead of a planned Government ban, and many are also committed to phasing out the most problematic forms of plastic, such as PVC, expanded polystyrene and black plastic, within the next two years.

But no supermarket has pledged to completely remove plastic that can't be recycled from its shelves before 2022.