Iceland pledges to go "plastic-free" on own brand packaging by 2023

Iceland has become the first major retailer to commit to eliminate plastic packaging for all own brand products within five years to help end the "scourge" of plastic pollution.

The retailer said it would be replacing plastic with packaging including paper and pulp trays and paper bags which would be recyclable through domestic waste collections or in-store recycling facilities.

Iceland said it was the first major retailer globally to go "plastic-free" on its own label products and aimed to complete the move by the end of 2023.

It has already removed plastic disposable straws from its own label range and new food ranges set to hit the shelves in early 2018 will use paper-based rather than plastic food trays.

Plastic containers will be replaced with pulp trays and paper bags (Iceland/PA)
Plastic containers will be replaced with pulp trays and paper bags (Iceland/PA)

The move, which has been welcomed by environmental campaigners, comes amid growing concern over plastic pollution in the world's oceans, where it can harm and kill wildlife such as turtles and seabirds.

Last week, Prime Minister Theresa May pledged to eliminate all avoidable plastic waste within 25 years as part of the Government's environmental strategy, with calls for supermarkets to introduce "plastic-free" aisles.

A survey for Iceland revealed overwhelming public support for a shift away from plastic by retailers, with 80% of 5,000 people polled saying they would endorse  a supermarket's move to go plastic-free.

Iceland managing director, Richard Walker, said: "The world has woken up to the scourge of plastics.

"A truckload is entering our oceans every minute causing untold damage to our marine environment and ultimately humanity - since we all depend on the oceans for our survival.

"The onus is on retailers, as leading contributors to plastic packaging pollution and waste, to take a stand and deliver meaningful change."

He also said Iceland would ensure all packaging was fully recyclable and would be recycled, through support for initiatives such as a bottle deposit return scheme for plastic bottles.

As it was technologically and practically possible to create less environmentally harmful alternatives, "there really is no excuse any more for excessive packaging that creates needless waste and damages our environment", he added.

Greenpeace UK executive director John Sauven, said: "Last month a long list of former heads of Britain's biggest retail groups wrote a joint statement to explain that the only solution to plastic pollution was for retailers to reject plastic entirely in favour of more sustainable alternatives like recycled paper, steel, glass and aluminium.

"Now Iceland has taken up that challenge with its bold pledge to go plastic free within five years.

"It's now up to other retailers and food producers to respond to that challenge."

Samantha Harding, from the Campaign to Protect Rural England, said: "Iceland are steadfastly laying the path that all supermarkets should be following.

"Alongside its support for a deposit return system, Iceland's commitment to go plastic-free by 2023 shows that powerful retailers can take decisive action to provide what their customers want, without the environment paying for it."

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