Plastic aisle

Popular British supermarket chain Iceland Foods is planning on eliminating all plastic from its own-brand products by 2023, according to a recent announcement by managing director Richard Walker.

“A truckload [of plastic] is entering our oceans every minute, causing untold damage to our marine environment and ultimately humanity – since we all depend on the oceans for our survival,” wrote Walker in a letter to customers. “The onus is on retailers, as leading contributors to plastic packaging pollution and waste, to take a stand and deliver meaningful change.”

The private company, which specializes in frozen foods, will replace plastic packaging with paper-based trays in all its 1,400 product lines over the next six years. The ultimate goal is to phase out all plastic food packaging throughout the store, although no concrete timeline has been set for that step. No major global retailers are currently plastic-free.

Part of the reason Iceland was able to take this step, explained Walker, is because the company is privately held and thus better positioned to plan for the long term. Consumer sentiment is also favourable, with polling commissioned by Iceland finding that 80 per cent of the general public support the move.

British Prime Minister Theresa May issued a 25-year green plan in January that included a call to end all avoidable plastic waste by 2042. The UK alone uses 3.7 million tonnes of plastic a year, with large grocery retailers responsible for 800,000 tonnes.

May also promised to extend the plastic bag tax to smaller shops, as well as explore a charge on single-use plastic containers. Other ideas floated included plastic-free supermarket aisles, research and development investments in alternatives and targeted foreign aid to help developing countries deal with their plastics.

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