Sainsbury’s has announced a plan to reduce the amount of plastic packaging used at the supermarket by 50 per cent in the next six years.
The supermarket says it is the first major retailer to make such a commitment.
The target applies to all branded food packaging at Sainsbury’s.
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The supermarket currently uses approximately 120,000 tons of plastic packaging on an annual basis, with plastic milk bottles proving to be one of the largest sources.
Measures being introduced by Sainsbury’s in order to achieve its aim include switching to alternative materials, using lighter-weight plastics and offering refillable packaging to customers.
In addition to plastic milk bottles, other products at Sainsbury’s which use the most plastic packaging include fruit and vegetables, fizzy drinks, water and fruit juices.
Mike Coupe, chief executive at Sainsbury’s, said that the retailer has set itself a “bold ambition” because it understands that “we urgently need to reduce our impact on the planet and to help drive change across our industry”.
“Reducing plastic and packaging is not easy,” Mr Coupe said.
“Packaging plays a vital role in keeping our food safe and fresh and minimising food waste. We must therefore find alternatives to plastic that protect the quality of our food while minimising our impact on the environment.”
Coupe added that Sainsbury’s is asking its suppliers and customers to work with the company to “help us make this important change”.
Theresa Villiers, the environment secretary, praised Sainsbury’s for its “efforts to introduce new industry-wide standards” and for “ensuring that our environment is protected for future generations”.
“This is a brilliant example of the integral role business has to play in cutting plastic waste, empowering consumers to make more sustainable choices,” Ms Villiers said.
Today, Sainsbury’s is co-hosting a summit with the Natural Environment Research Council, which involves the gathering of branded suppliers, researchers and government stakeholders.
Those in attendance at the summit will discuss how they can “identify potential breakthrough innovation projects” with regards to the reduction of plastic waste.
The supermarket has launched a new area on its website – www.about.sainsburys.co.uk/helpreduceplastic – where customers, staff members, manufacturers and entrepreneurs can put forward ideas to help reduce plastic waste.
The retailer will report publicly on the progression of its plastic packaging reduction plan every six months.
The supermarket has already made several commitments to reduce the use of plastic within its stores, including removing lightweight loose produce bags by this month; the removal of micro beads from its own brand products in 2013; replacing the plastic film on fruit and vegetables with a recyclable alternative by the end of 2020 and the promise to provide customers with fresh water stands in 326 of its cafes across the country, where they can refill their own water bottles.
In June, Sainsbury’s unveiled the UK’s first meat-free butchery as part of a three-day pop up in Bethnal Green, London.
The products on offer at the eatery – including “meaty” cuts, joints and strings of sausages – were made from ingredients including mushrooms, jackfruit and pea protein.
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