Sainsbury’s has announced a new commitment to reduce plastic packaging by 50% by 2025, but says customers must change behaviour too.
This target includes all branded food packaging, Sainsbury’s brand food packaging and packaging across all of Sainsbury’s operations.
Sainsbury’s currently uses almost 120,000 tonnes of plastic packaging per year and believes a transformational leap in thinking is required to move the industry beyond existing efforts at reducing packaging.
Sainsbury’s reduced plastic packaging by 1% in 2018.
To meet this goal, Sainsbury’s says it will launch a programme to accelerate change, which will include switching to alternative materials, using lighter-weight plastics and introducing refillable packaging at scale.
Following “rigorous analysis” of its plastic footprint, the key areas of focus for the biggest impact are: plastic milk bottles, packaging for fruit and vegetables, fizzy drinks, water and fruit juices.
Some of these alternatives will require customers to change their behaviour, it says – for example, plastic milk bottles are currently one of largest sources of plastic packaging. Sainsbury’s is reviewing alternative options including the introduction of refillable bottles, introducing returnable milk bottles or offering a reusable jug with milk in a lightweight plastic pouch.
We can’t do this on our own and we will be asking our suppliers and our customers to work with us to help us make this important change
Sainsbury’s says it “recognises it cannot achieve this commitment on its own”. To achieve its ambition, Sainsbury’s will pioneer new ways to collaborate with food manufacturers, packaging suppliers, raw material scientists and other retailers, alongside the waste and recycling industry.
To kickstart this collaboration, Sainsbury’s is co-hosting a summit with the Natural Environment Research Council (NERC), part of UK Research and Innovation (UKRI), today (13 September), which will bring together branded suppliers, researchers and government stakeholders to identify potential breakthrough innovation projects.
Sainsbury’s says it is also looking to open source ideas. From today, it will have an area on its website for customers, colleagues, manufacturers, entrepreneurs and other interested parties to submit ideas to help reduce plastic packaging.
Sainsbury’s will work with Greenpeace on this commitment and will report publicly on progress every six months.
Mike Coupe, Chief Executive of Sainsbury’s, said: “We have set ourselves a bold ambition because we understand that we urgently need to reduce our impact on the planet and to help drive change across our industry.
“Reducing plastic and packaging is not easy. Packaging plays a vital role in keeping our food safe and fresh and minimising food waste. We must therefore find alternatives to plastic that protect the quality of our food while minimising our impact on the environment.
“We can’t do this on our own and we will be asking our suppliers and our customers to work with us to help us make this important change.”
Theresa Villiers, Environment Secretary, said: “I commend the leadership shown by Sainsbury’s and their efforts to introduce new industry-wide standards and reporting, ensuring that our environment is protected for future generations.
“This is a brilliant example of the integral role business has to play in cutting plastic waste, empowering consumers to make more sustainable choices.”