// Sainsbury’s pledges to reduce plastic packaging by 50% by 2025
// Big 4 grocer promises to switch to alternative materials and refillable options to meet consumer demand for less waste
// Sainsbury’s is the first major retailer to undertake a sustainability initiative on this scale
Sainsbury’s has announced an ambitious pledge to reduce use of plastic packaging by 50 per cent by 2025.
This new target includes all branded food packaging, Sainsbury’s own-brand food packaging and packaging across all of Sainsbury’s operations.
Having reduced plastic packaging by just one per cent in 2018, the Big 4 retailer said a “transformational leap in thinking” was required to move the industry beyond existing efforts.
Sainsbury’s said it was the first major retailer in the UK to undertake a sustainability initiative on this scale.
The grocery giant currently uses almost 120,000 tonnes of plastic packaging per year, mostly in milk bottles, packaging for fruit and vegetables, and drinks.
To meet its 20256 goal, Sainsbury’s said it would launch a programme to accelerate change and meet rapidly growing consumer demand for less waste.
This will include switching to alternative materials, using lighter-weight plastics and introducing refillable packaging at scale.
For milk bottles, Sainsbury’s said it was reviewing options including the use of refillable bottles, returnable milk bottles or offering a reusable jug with milk in a lightweight plastic pouch.
“We have set ourselves a bold ambition because we understand that we urgently need to reduce our impact on the planet and to help drive change across our industry,” chief executive Mike Coupe said.
“Reducing plastic and packaging is not easy. 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.”
Sainsbury’s said it will attend today a summit with suppliers, researchers and government groups to identify potential areas for a breakthrough.
The retailer has also opened an area on its website for customers, staff, manufacturers, entrepreneurs and other interested parties to submit ideas to help reduce plastic packaging.
Sainsbury’s said it would also work with Greenpeace on this commitment and will report publicly on progress every six months.
“We can’t do this on our own and we will be asking our suppliers and our customers to work with us to help us make this important change,” Coupe said.
Sainsbury’s already has a few sustainability initiatives in place, such as the roll out of recyclable plastic trays for chilled ready meals.
Launched in July, the Big retailer is in the process of replacing all hard-to-recycle black plastic trays with natural CPET, a form of recyclable plastic.
The new material will be completely rolled out across all stores by November.
Sainsbury’s is also currently in the middle of a trial to recycle plastic bottles by testing in-store recycling machines that pay customers for every bottle returned, and another trial to remove all single use plastic bags from its fruit and vegetable aisles with reusable drawstring bags for loose produce.
Waitrose, Iceland, M&S, Lidl and Big 4 rivals Morrisons, Asda and Tesco have also started to step up their own efforts in the war on plastic and food waste with their own various sustainability initiatives.