LONDON (Reuters) - Britain’s second-biggest supermarket, Sainsbury’s (SBRY.L), vowed on Friday to halve plastic packaging by 2025, promising to switch to alternative materials and refillable options to meet consumer demand for less waste.
Having reduced plastic packaging by just 1% in 2018, Sainsbury’s said a “transformational leap in thinking” was required to tackle the almost 120,000 tonnes of plastic packaging it uses a year.
It said it used the most plastic in milk bottles, packaging for fruit and vegetables, and drinks. For milk bottles it is reviewing options including the use of refillable bottles, returnable milk bottles or offering a reusable jug with milk in a lightweight plastic pouch.
Employing 178,000 people across the country, Sainsbury’s on Friday will attend a summit with suppliers, researchers and government groups to identify potential areas for a breakthrough.
“Reducing plastic and packaging is not easy,” Chief Executive Mike Coupe said. “Packaging plays a vital role in keeping our food safe and fresh and minimizing food waste.
“We must therefore find alternatives to plastic that protect the quality of our food while minimizing our impact on the environment.”
Britons have become increasingly aware of the amount of plastic they use following David Attenborough’s “Blue Planet II” documentary which highlighted the dangers of plastic pollution to marine life.
In recent years Britain has managed to slash the use of plastic bags by charging 5 pence for each bag, and the government has considered imposing a “latte levy” on disposable coffee cups which are hard to recycle.
Britain’s biggest supermarket, Tesco (TSCO.L), has also stepped up efforts to encourage shoppers to recycle plastic bottles by testing in-store recycling machines that pay customers for every bottle returned.
Reporting by Kate Holton in London; Editing by Matthew Lewis