The events of the past year have inevitably pushed the plastic problem down the news agenda, whilst giving supermarkets fresh challenges to urgently address.
But, as Greenpeace and the Environmental Investigation Agency’s’ (EIA) third annual report explains: “supermarkets still aren’t doing enough.”
The report ranks the UK’s top ten supermarkets based on their progress in reducing plastic, the proportion of packaging which is reusable, their recycling rates, their supply chains, their future plans and the transparency of their operations.
Waitrose came out on top for the second year in a row and Aldi leaped from tenth place into second, whilst Morrisons plunged to ninth as their progress stalled.
The report cites the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the situation, with panic buying leading to packaging shortages (resulting in less sustainable alternatives being used temporarily), a fall in consumers buying loose produce (due to fears over the virus), and the increased use of plastic bags denting progress.
However, the past year has also resulted in some positive changes and led to further innovation, leading Greenpeace to affirm that there is “still an appetite from supermarkets to reduce single use and unnecessary plastics.”
Aldi and Sainsbury’s have committed to halving their plastic footprint by 2025, with the other retailers urged to at least match this promise. The campaign goup has also challenged all of the UK’s supermarkets to make 50% of their packaging reusable by the end of this decade.
Supermarkets including Waitrose, Tesco and Asda have all implemented high profile trials to identify a scalable solution when it comes to refillable products.
If significant progress is to be made, then of course the burden of responsibility weighs heaviest on the shoulders of the country’s biggest chains, the top five being Tesco, Sainsbury’s, ASDA, Morrison’s and Aldi. The blog article ‘How Supermarkets Can Halve Their Plastic Packaging’ offers some excellent suggestions on steps that could be taken.
According to Greenpeace: “Up to 12.7 million tonnes of plastic enter the oceans every year, and plastic pollution is now the biggest killer of marine life. Supermarkets are playing a major part in this tragedy, but they can also be a major part of the solution.”
If you aren’t happy with the progress being made by the supermarket(s) you shop with, take them to task. Ask questions of them, demand better. If you’re still dissatisfied, vote with your feet and shop elsewhere.
We did just that in 2020, basing our decision on research that included Greenpeace’s previous report. Goodbye Sainsbury’s, hello Waitrose. We also seek to ‘shop local’ where we can and to support independent businesses as much as possible. For example, our milk, juices, sometimes bread, household and bathroom products and fruit and vegetables don’t come from a supermarket. In normal times, some of our dried goods also come from a relatively local zero waste shop.
The average UK household spends £3,220 a year on groceries and non-alcoholic drinks according to the Office for National Statistics’ (ONS) Family Spending Report.
If 1,000 households that shop at a given supermarket took their custom elsewhere, that £3 million ‘hit’ may not be enough to make a supermarket sit up and take notice. If 100,000 households took action, a deficit of over £300 million may tell a different story.
You can find us on Facebook by searching for Plastic Free Home or at http://www.facebook.com/plasticfreehomeuk.