The United Kingdom frozen food supermarket chain Iceland Foods Ltd. says it will become the first major retailer to eliminate plastic packaging from all of its own brand products by the end of 2023.
In a Jan. 16 statement, the company said the process will start now and will see it using “latest technologies” to create a range of packaging comprising paper and pulp trays, along with paper bags which are fully recyclable.
The pledge followed Prime Minister Theresa May's announcement of her 25-year environment strategy, which aims to eliminate all unnecessary plastics packaging and urges supermarkets to introduce plastic-free aisles.
“The continuing defense of current plastic packaging does not resonate with the consumer and general public opinion,” the U.K. retailer said.
Citing a recent survey on consumer attitudes to plastic, conducted by OnePoll, Iceland Foods said 80 percent of the 5,000 participants endorsed a move to go plastic free.
The survey, carried out Dec. 21-27, also suggested that 91 percent of participants would be more likely to encourage friends and family to shop in supermarkets with “plastic-free stance”.
Iceland Foods has already removed plastic disposable straws from its own label range and says its new food ranges, which are set to hit the shelves in early 2018, will feature paper-based rather than plastic food trays.
Citing a Greenpeace report, Richard Walker, Iceland managing director, said a truckload of plastics is entering oceans every minute.
“The onus is on retailers, as leading contributors to plastic packaging pollution and waste, to take a stand and deliver meaningful change,” he added.
Calling on other supermarkets and the retailers to follow suit, Walker said: “There really is no excuse. … The technologies and practicalities to create less environmentally harmful alternatives exist, and so Iceland is putting a stake in the ground.”
In tandem, the company is also taking measures such as deposit return schemes for bottles to increases recycling rates of its packaging.
In response to the decision, the British Plastics Federation (BPF) said it was "surprised" by the announcement.
"Plastic packaging is used because it vastly reduces food waste and is resource efficient. If Iceland implement these measures, there is a risk that the weight of the packaging, carbon emissions, food waste and the amount of energy to make that packaging will increase," the trade group said in a Jan. 16 statement.
The BPF added that Iceland's proposals targeted products that will have "absolutely no impact" on reducing marine litter, which in the UK typically comes from items littered outside homes.
"Its environmental footprint will increase, not decrease," the BPF concluded.