- Seven out of top 10 UK supermarkets increased their plastic footprint
- Waitrose and Morrisons top the league table while Asda and Aldi lag behind
- Retailers must reduce their use of single-use plastic by moving to packaging-free and reusable packaging solutions.
Supermarket plastic has risen to more than 900,000 tonnes – despite retailers making public commitments to cut down their plastic packaging.
An Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA) and Greenpeace report, Checking out on plastics II: Breakthroughs and backtracking from supermarkets, reveals that seven out of the top 10 UK supermarkets had increased their plastic footprint. Only Waitrose, Tesco and Sainsbury’s had achieved marginal reductions.
EIA and Greenpeace are urging supermarkets to work towards eliminating single-use plastic altogether, by offering packaging-free products or switching to reusable and refillable packaging. False solutions such as swapping plastic for cardboard, or simply making plastic thinner are unacceptable.
EIA Ocean Campaigner Juliet Phillips said: “It’s shocking to see that despite unprecedented awareness of the pollution crisis, the amount of single-use plastic used by the UK’s biggest supermarkets has actually increased in the past year.
“Our survey shows that grocery retailers need to tighten up targets to drive real reductions in single-use packaging and items. We need to address our throwaway culture at root through systems change, not materials change – substituting one single-use material for another is not the solution.”
Fiona Nicholls, ocean plastics campaigner for Greenpeace UK, said: “Supermarkets are failing on plastics and failing their customers. We hear piecemeal supermarket announcements on plastic every other week, but in reality they are putting more plastic on the shelves than ever.
“Supermarkets need to buck up and think bigger. They must change their stores to offer loose food dispensers, reusable packaging, and move away from throwaway packaging altogether.”
The survey revealed that big brands that supply supermarkets were a driving factor behind the rise in plastic packaging, showing supermarkets had failed to force their suppliers to take action. Only Tesco had given suppliers an ultimatum to cut excessive plastic or face products being delisted, and campaigners urge others to follow suit.
Another factor in rising plastic was that supermarkets which saw their sales grow last year failed to cut plastic along the way, meaning that when they sold more goods, they sold more plastic too.
Findings from today’s report include:
- Waitrose and Morrisons were the best performers, while Asda and Aldi were bottom of the table.
- Iceland dropped from the top spot last year to seventh place this year.
- Sainsbury’s went from bottom of the 2018 league table to third place this year.
- Eight supermarkets pumped out 58.3bn billion pieces of plastic packaging.
- Other leading brands failed to respond to the survey for the second year running, including Ocado, Best-One and Booker Group .
|League table position||2018||2019|
Waitrose scored highly because it had reduced the amount of plastic packaging used, and is looking to scale up innovative trials to offer refill stations in store for products like coffee, rice and pasta, as well as wine and detergent.
Morrisons became the first retailer to set a quantified target to increase reusable and refillable packaging. It also started its own refill trials, and made loose and refillable ranges 10% cheaper than packaged counterparts.
After Greenpeace targeted Sainsbury’s for its poor track record on plastics, it announced plans to reduce plastic by 50% and introduced reusable produce bags for loose fruit and vegetables.
Companies at the bottom of the league table had increased their overall plastic footprint since last year and had generally made the least progress to date on trialling and expanding packaging-free and reusable solutions.
Spokespeople are available for interview. Press office contacts are:
- Paul Newman, EIA Press & Communications Officer, via firstname.lastname@example.org or +44 (0) 20 7354 7983
- Emily Davies, Greenpeace UK Plastics Press Officer, via email@example.com or +44 (0)20 7865 8255
Last year’s supermarket survey can be found here.
In 2018, our report noted that the ten largest supermarkets reported to have put 810,000 tonnes of single use plastic packaging on the market, however this figure did not include branded sales by Asda, which had not been reported. The 886,000 tonne figure reported here includes an estimate for Asda equivalent to its reported packaging from own-brand goods, which is the best data available.
1. The Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA) investigates and campaigns against environmental crime and abuses. Our undercover investigations expose transnational wildlife crime, with a focus on elephants, pangolins and tigers, and forest crimes such as illegal logging and deforestation for cash crops such as palm oil; we work to safeguard global marine ecosystems by tackling plastic pollution, exposing illegal fishing and seeking an end to all whaling; and we address the threat of global warming by campaigning to curtail powerful refrigerant greenhouse gases and exposing related criminal trade.