What are supermarkets doing to fight plastic?


Plastic waste is “one of the great environmental scourges of our time”.

These are the words of Prime Minister Theresa May, who has pledged to ban all avoidable plastic waste in the UK by 2042.

About 6.3bn tonnes of plastic waste had been generated globally by 2015, with almost 80% of it going to landfills or the natural environment.

And despite extending the 5p charge on single-use plastic bags, major retailers in England still sold 2.1 billion in the last financial year.

In a bid to tackle the problem, the PM has called on supermarkets to introduce “plastic-free” aisles and consider taxes and charges on single-use plastic items like food containers.

But organisations like Greenpeace UK are sceptical about the plan, citing Mrs May’s “vague aspirations” and calling for “concrete action”, such as a bottle deposit return scheme or a “latte levy” on disposable coffee cups.

So what are Britain’s 10 biggest supermarkets doing to combat the “scourge” of plastic?


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By 2025, Tesco wants all its packaging to be recyclable or compostable and its total packaging weight to be halved compared to 2007.

It has removed all polystyrene from its fish packaging, and claims that more than 78% of its packaging is recyclable, though this depends on the type of material accepted by local authorities.

Replacing two layer plastic trays with single layer plastic has also helped them to remove 92 tonnes of plastic.


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Sainsbury’s has set a target to reduce packaging by a half by 2020, compared to 2005.

It has also committed to remove all plastic cotton buds, a major source of ocean plastic pollution.

The supermarket recycles carrier bags, and has achieved a 33% reduction in its own brand-packaging since 2006.

Between 2015 and 2016, it also redesigned its two-pint milk bottles, saving 580 tonnes of plastic a year.


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Asda has reduced the weight of its packaging by 27% since 2007, partly by introducing “skin” packaging on some of its meat products.

It also saved 82 tonnes of plastic by making its two-litre own-brand water bottles lighter.

  • Theresa May defends ‘long-term’ plastic waste plan
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Morrisons recycles its carrier bags and uses “returnable bins” for fish products to reduce the use of poly boxes.

The company says it keeps 95% of its store waste out of direct landfill.

It has also banned microbeads and plastic cotton buds in its own-brand cosmetic products, and plans to phase out drinking straws in its cafes.

In September, it trialled removing single-use carrier bags entirely in six of its stores.


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Aldi wants to source all its pulp-based packaging from certified forests by 2020 and has seen a relative 11% reduction in packaging of 11% between 2012 to 2015.

It has not sent any waste directly to landfill since 2014, and recycles 100% of its cardboard and plastic.


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The Co-Operative Group

Co-Op aims for 80% of its products to have “easily recyclable” packaging by 2020.

It has replaced polystyrene pizza discs with cardboard, saving 200 tonnes of plastic from landfill, and uses single-plastic packaging for meat, poultry and fish products.

It has also supported the idea of a deposit return scheme for bottles.


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