Sainsbury’s promise to reduce plastic by half thanks to people power!

People power works! After huge public pressure Sainsbury’s recently pledged to cut their plastic usage by 50% by 2025 – a move which could see plastic reduction across the whole industry.


This is a massive win against pointless plastic. Worst offender Sainsbury’s committed to halving their plastic usage, introducing reusable and refillable packaging on both branded and own-branded products like milk, water, fruit juice and fruit and veg.

Why does this matter? Well, it’s estimated that 90% seabirds have plastic in their stomachs. There’s plastic in sea salt. And plastic has even been found in the snow falling in the Arctic

In the UK alone, supermarkets produce a whopping 800,000 tonnes of plastic packaging. A small car weighs just over a tonne, so this amount of plastic is pretty mind-boggling.

Plastic is such a huge part of modern life, it’s almost hiding in plain sight. But over a million savvy consumers saw that this was a crisis and had already called for supermarkets to ditch pointless packaging.

How people power pushed Sainsbury’s to change its ways

While no supermarket is doing enough, up til now Sainsbury’s have done the least. In a Greenpeace and the Environmental Investigations Agency 2018 league table Sainsbury’s, the UK’s second biggest supermarket, was right at the bottom.

On April Fool’s Day, Polly Ethelene – Head of Sainsbury’s PR (not really), played by the amazing Sukh Ojla, told the UK about Sainsbury’s new plastic waste storage system – the ocean! 

As a well-timed spoof, the video got a lot of attention – even getting Sainsbury’s trending on Twitter by having over 10,000 people share it.

The response to the news that Sainsbury’s were worst-in-class on plastic was phenomenal. Almost 100,000 people emailed Mike Coupe, Sainsbury’s CEO, demanding the supermarket reduce their plastic footprint. 

Volunteers (many out volunteering for the first time) were out in 60 locations across the UK at local branches collecting thousands of messages of frustration, and unwanted plastic from customers as they checked out. 

Local Greenpeace volunteers in London, Islington return pieces of single use packaging from Sainsbury’s to the store manager. © Greenpeace

The unwanted plastic and customer messages were delivered to Sainsbury’s HQ in central London, showing them directly the consequences of their lack of action on plastic pollution.

And finally, just before Greenpeace met with Sainsbury’s, supporters turned up the pressure again – by flooding their HQ’s phone-lines with plastic complaints. So many people called they had to change their number on Google! 

Just a short time later, Sainsbury’s announced their ambitious commitment to reduce their plastic use – a game-changing move which others should follow. By no means have Sainsbury’s kicked their plastic habit, but they’ve finally made a decent start.

It’s not over yet…

Plastic pollution remains an urgent problem which still needs radical action.

Eight million tonnes of plastic enters the oceans every single year. Much of that is ‘single-use plastic’ – like drinks bottles, food packaging or plastic bags. This plastic is used for minutes, or even seconds, before it is thrown ‘away’ forever.

But there is no ‘away’. Much of that plastic ends up in landfills, incinerated, or in our oceans, where it can harm marine life and make its way into our food chain. 

So while the planet is being covered in plastic – it’s still possible to make waves. Add your name now to demand that all industries and governments need set limits and reduce their plastic usage. 


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