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UK supermarkets and government removing single-use plastic

Pledging to remove 9,000 tonnes of unnecessary plastic each year, Morrisons has become the first UK supermarket to roll out entirely plastic-free fruit and veg aisles at scale, amidst increasing consumer and government pressures on all supermarkets to drastically improve sustainability.

It’s no secret that supermarkets and restaurants have attracted a lot of attention from eco-conscious consumers, and it’s resulted in entire processes being reviewed and overhauled across the industry. Morrisons has proven it cannot only reduce its ecological impact but also increase sales, by as much as 40% for its loose fruit and veg, in the process of reducing its use of plastic. This is a shining example for other UK retailers to follow in responding to the demand for rapid action in the fight against climate change.

Whilst we are regularly seeing new announcements from many retailers, manufacturers and focus groups taking steps to eliminate single-use plastic, and these incremental changes are welcomed and will make an impact, time is running out to truly stimulate change. We must work collaboratively across all stages of the supply chain including; re-processors, manufacturers, distributors, and retailers, as well as consumers, waste collectors and recyclers.

DEFRA’s Resources and Waste Strategy demonstrates a commitment to change and now that the consultations have closed the drill down into new legislation details will start.   We only have to look at news issued this week on plans to ban plastic straws, drink stirrers and cotton buds from April 2020, unless they are used for medical needs or for disability reasons.

Other retailers have recently implemented a range of initiatives from paper bags to promises to reduce black plastic, but they have yet to outdo Morrisons commitment to sustainability. Iceland, Tesco and Budgens are poised to follow their lead in terms of a large-scale plastic-free fruit and veg rollout, and change can’t come soon enough. In proportion to the considerable amount of plastic that exists in the rest of the supermarket it is only the first step, and for the sake of the planet cannot be the last.

Whilst the benefits of plastic are recognised; it’s cheap, versatile, lightweight and helps protects products (which reduces spoilage waste), labelling can be simplified to clearly identify which items are widely recyclable rather than ‘theoretically’.

Morrisons should be commended for taking a radical first step. It instils industry confidence that the benefits from positive change can outweigh the cost of investment. It’s this sort of commercial progress that will educate and steer UK commercial businesses, consumers and in turn, the planet, towards fixing the climate breakdown we’re collectively facing. There’s hope in sight.