Posted: Wed 16th Sep 2020

Deeside based Iceland has revealed how much plastic packaging it uses “and it’s horrific” says Managing Director

News and Info from Deeside, Flintshire, North Wales
This article is old - Published: Wednesday, Sep 16th, 2020

Deeside based Iceland has revealed the amount of plastic packaging it uses, “and it’s horrific,” Managing Director Richard Walker has said.

In a blog posted Mr Walker discussed Iceland’s transparency in reporting plastic packaging which was published today.

Iceland’s report shows they used 32,000 tonnes of plastic packaging across its UK and international operations in 2019, which is comprised of 1.8 billion items using primary plastic and over 100 million items of secondary and tertiary plastic.

They are however only a small player in UK food retailing, with only 2.5% of the national grocery market.

The supermarket chain has joined forces with Friends of the Earth, Greenpeace, A Plastic Planet and Surfers Against Sewage to call on retail and the wider business sector in becoming more transparent when reporting plastic packaging.

A call has also been made for the Government to make the public reporting of this information mandatory through an amendment to the Environment Bill and is supported by the Environmental Investigation Agency, Keep Britain Tidy, and international development charity Tearfund.

Mr Walker said: “Our message is clear. Without transparency, and government enforced reduction targets, we will not be able to judge whether business actions are delivering real progress.

“That is why today Iceland is calling on retailers and other businesses to step up and commit to publishing their total plastic packaging transparently, including both own label and branded products.

“For several years now, businesses have been using incomplete information to represent the scale of their plastic packaging, their commitments to change, and the progress being made.

“We will all be better served by a more accurate and transparent picture on this issue.

“What we are asking from all major retailers and businesses is straightforward as they are already subject to PRN[1] reporting and will be in the future to the Government’s planned EPR[2] scheme, so this will require no extra costs or resources.

“We have a huge challenge ahead that can only be solved by businesses and policy makers working together, in tandem with fully informed consumers sharing a completely clear picture of both the country and individual businesses’ total plastic packaging.

“Increased recycling is important but won’t solve the issue on its own. Regulated commitments to reduce plastic pollution are also vital if we are to deliver positive progress in the face of the sheer scale of plastic making its way into the environment.”

The report shows branded products compared to Iceland’s own label, the former using significantly more plastic.

They reduced plastic packaging for their own branding by 29%, a total of 3,794 tonnes removed from the 13,000 the business was using in January 2018.

It coincides with their commitment to eliminate all plastic packaging from their own labels by the end of 2023.

“Our figures show that two thirds of the plastic packaging we sell relates to brands rather than own label,” Mr Walker added.

“When we made our commitment to eliminate plastic from our own label products by the end of 2023, we were aware that we would have to take further steps to lead the way in the fight against the scourge of plastic.

“That is why as well as calling on fellow retailers, businesses, and the Government, we are also publishing our first plastic packaging footprint to reflect both our impact and the challenge that lies ahead. We can only solve this crisis by working together.”

Representatives from Friends of the Earth, Greenpeace UK, A Plastic Planet and Surfers Against Sewage also commented.

Tony Bosworth, Friends of the Earth campaigner, said: “This initiative is an important development in the drive to slash plastic pollution.

“You can’t manage what you don’t measure. Many corporate ambitions for reducing plastic waste may sound impressive, but unless they are clear about how much they’re responsible for in the first place these can be fairly meaningless.

“Ministers must listen to the growing calls for serious action on the plastic crisis by ensuring that bold targets for reducing plastic pollution and waste are included in the Environment Bill.”

Greenpeace UK plastic campaigner Nina Schrank said: “There’s nothing like transparency about a problem to force companies to tackle it, and that’s true of throwaway plastic too.

“Iceland has made a bold and brave move by publishing their plastic data, and we urge other retailers to follow suit. If UK supermarkets are underreporting their packaging, ocean plastic pollution could be far worse than we thought, and wildlife could be even more at risk.

“UK supermarkets are starting to cut the amount of single-use plastic packaging they produce, but we need them to move faster and think bigger. The government can make a big difference by setting legally-binding targets, pushing retailers to cut their plastic packaging in half by 2025.

“Supermarkets can do it, they should do it, and the government ought to be watching to make sure that they all do it.”

A Plastic Planet co-founder Sian Sutherland said: “To quote Peter Drucker, ‘If you can’t measure it, you can’t improve it’. For years UK supermarkets have been hiding behind half-truths and incomplete data, never fully disclosing the enormous scale of the plastic within their own businesses.

“This bold move by Iceland must quickly be adopted by all UK retailers. If the retailers use their collective might, the brands will soon have to follow, and we will finally see some real plastic reduction rather than yet more pacts and pledges.

“Should retailers not volunteer to do the right thing now, Whitehall must move quickly to make transparent plastic reporting a legal requirement.”

Hugo Tagholm, CEO for Surfers Against Sewage, said: “Surfers Against Sewage believes that setting plastic pollution reduction targets in the Environment Bill will help drive the action required at individual, business and community level to stem the plastic tide.

“We urgently need measures that correspond with these targets, including transparent reporting from all businesses, plastic bans, reuse incentives and a deposit return system on plastic bottles.

“We have a once in a generation opportunity to deliver world-beating legislation to end plastic pollution once and for all.”

For further information on Iceland’s plastic consumption figures to date, visit sustainability.iceland.co.uk.

—–

By Jordan Adams

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