Thursday 12 September 2019

Supermarket Sweep

The Role of Supermarkets in our Plastic War
Recycling plasticsLet's face it, supermarkets are brimming with plastic produce AND plastic packaging. There's no getting away from it.

What ever happened to the idea of more free time for workers, time freed up by the use of automated machines? All we seem to be doing is doing more work. 

How many of us have printed our own bills, used the self checkout becoming our own till worker, got online insurance, downloaded it, printed it then get charged a fee for cancelling it, when we did most of the administration ourselves?

Even tax returns are completed by us with the aid of HMRC's online tool. If we need an actual person to help they often send us back to an online form somewhere. 

Workplaces are just as busy with checking and responding to emails despite the promise of our streamlined automated lives. 

So we're doing more work. As a result our time has never really been freed up at all and supermarkets realise this and supply us with much appreciated ready meals, convenience food and lots and lots of packaging.

But they are taking notice that plastics are a real problem for many - highlighted in recent news and documentary reports of plastics continually washing ashore, or being transported to other countries, who haven't the resources to deal with it.

Here, we look at 3 market leading supermarkets to see how progress is being made..
In the September 2019 Tesco magazine, they say 'We're using the four R's approach. Remove it where we can, Reduce it where we can't, Reuse more, Recycle what's left.'

Tesco have introduced polyester clothes made from recycled plastics and are encouraging customers to bring containers from home to buy produce from the meat, cheese or fish counters. A trial is under way in Swindon of recycling soft plastics such as cat food pouches and crisp packets. 

'Our ambition is that all own-brand packaging is 100% recyclable by 2025. We're currently at 83% and aim to be 90% by the end of the year (2019)'.

They plan also to phase out black plastics that cannot be recycled and make F&F clothes packaging thinner to reduce polythene use. According to their sustainablity goals they also aim to achieve 'Zero net deforestation in the supply chain by 2020'.

It is reassuring to hear that supermarkets are helping to make the change in our throw away society. We can help too by making measured choices on what we buy and how much we throw away. 

On the Sainsbury's site they list the following goals:

Some examples of the plastic we will be removing, reducing and reusing by the end of this year:
  • 175 tonnes – reducing plastic content from water bottles
  • 5 tonnes – switching plastic trays to wooden on plants and flowers
  • 65 tonnes – ready meals
  • 489 tonnes – removing plastic bags for loose fruit, vegetables and bakery items from all stores
  • 1000 tonnes – removing plastic sleeves from clothing
  • 800 tonnes – reusing and recycling clothing hangers, which are made from 100% recycled materials
  • 14 tonnes – removing plastic cups and cutlery from all offices
  • 61 tonnes – changes to poultry packaging
They have also removed:
  • 50 tonnes – plastic stems from cotton buds, replacing them with a biodegradable option
  • 37 tonnes – plastic straws
'From April, we have offered customers 25p off hot drinks across all of our cafes when a customer brings a re-usable cup. We will also continue to encourage customers to bring in plastic containers to our counters and update everyone on further progress.'

Sainsbury's is a funding partner for the Woodland Trust, helping to subsidise large scale tree planting in England, Northern Ireland and Wales.

Supermarket Morrisons has been voted the most environmentally responsible company in the UK for its work on plastics reduction at the 'Responsible Business Awards' which is run by HRH The Prince of Wales' Business in the Community Network.

Morrisons has seen over 9,000 tonnes of plastic a year eliminated or made recyclable. This has included being the first UK supermarket to introduce reusable grocery paper bags, introducing loose fruit and veg sections, and getting rid of problematic plastics - such as cucumber wraps and black plastic.

Asda announced in January 2020 that Asda plan to open a trial in a Middleton store in Leeds, to provide refill stations for tea, cereals, coffee, rice and pasta. There will also be plastic free mushrooms and cucumbers available. If the trial is successful this may be rolled out in other stores.

For a run down on which supermarkets are achieving more head on down to: for a league table.

Plastics Pact - It's a Wrap!
As a final note almost all of the UK's major supermarket chains have signed up to the UK Plastics Pact, which launched in April 2018.

The pact, led by sustainability experts at WRAP (Waste and Resources Action Programme), aims to tackle plastic waste by bringing together businesses from across the entire plastics value chain, UK governments and NGOs.

Check out this You-Tube Video of 8 problem plastics to be eliminated by 2020.