Supplier collaboration key to Iceland's plastics win

16 March 2020

Iceland said collaboration with suppliers has been the main factor behind it succeeding in removing 29% of plastic from its annual packaging usage.

The retailer said it removed 3,794 tonnes a year, against a target to remove all plastic from own-label ranges by 2023, and it will fulfil its commitment without passing on charges to the customer by investing in plastic-free solutions. 

Iceland said progress had been made in areas such as frozen ready meals, where packaging for 74 lines has been moved from non-recyclable black plastic and into paperboard-based trays.

The chain said it had also made significant progress in addressing other difficult to recycle plastics, including PVC and polystyrene.  

Richard Walker, managing director at Iceland, said collaboration with suppliers had been key to the progress made to date.

He said Iceland had established working groups and set out frameworks for plastic removal, with a redevelopment plan set out for each and every line involving around 100 suppliers.

As well as own-brand suppliers, Iceland has encouraged branded suppliers to take a collaborative approach on plastic packaging reduction.

“The scale of the challenge we have taken on is huge, partly because of the lack of alternative solutions in some instances, the infrastructure in the manufacturing industry, which in many cases is built around plastic usage, and of course the fact that we are the only retailer to have made a ‘totality’ commitment,” said Walker.

Iceland has also launched trials to support the research and development of ways to reduce plastic consumption.

Initiatives included a “reverse” vending machine in stores that accepts plastic bottles.

UK chancellor Rishi Sunak used the budget to announce a tax of £200 a tonne on plastic packaging containing less than 30% recycled content.

Sunak believes the move will help tackle the “scourge” of plastics pollution and boost the use of recycle plastics by 40% after it comes into effect in April 2022.

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