Waitrose ranked top for plastic packaging cuts

25 January 2021

Waitrose has been ranked top among supermarkets for the second year running for its efforts to cut plastic packaging. 

The third annual Supermarket Plastics Survey by Greenpeace and the Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA) said Waitrose had made the most progress in tackling the issue, with an overall reduction of 6.1% since 2017 and the lowest plastic use among the 10 largest UK supermarkets. 

Waitrose scored well across supplier engagement and commitment to remove single-use plastic products and increase reusable materials and unpackaged ranges.

Aldi was ranked in second place, having been last in the last report, followed by M&S, Lidl, and Sainsbury’s. 

Aldi’s progress was attributed to getting rid of single-use carrier bags, lowered use of produce bags and ‘bags for life’, improvements in transparency, and pledges to cut plastic by 2025.

The survey scored the top 10 UK supermarkets on sustainability performance in 2019 across reduction of plastic packaging, increased reusables, level of commitments, recyclability of materials, and supply chain engagement.

While eight out of 10 had reduced plastic use, altogether they still contributed 896,853 tonnes of plastic packaging to environmental pollution in 2019 – only 1.6% less than the previous year.

Plastic waste from carrier bags and ‘bags for life’ is still a key cause of landfill and ocean pollution, with 2.1bn bags sold by the 10 largest supermarkets in 2019, down 8% on 2018.

Morrisons dropped significantly from second to ninth place due to increased plastic use since 2017, especially plastic bags. However, its commitments to reusable materials should show benefits in the coming years, said the report.

Iceland was rock bottom in 10th place because its 29% reduction in own-branded plastic use was outweighed by increased plastic packaging from branded products, as well as a 73m surge in ‘bags for life’ sold compared to 2018.

Six of the supermarkets have set plastic targets for packaging of both branded and own-branded products, with Aldi, Sainsbury’s, Tesco and Waitrose among those who pledged to cut this by 50% by 2025.

The report said supermarkets were mainly concerned with tackling own-brand plastic packaging, compared to branded plastic packaging.

Christina Dixon, senior campaigner at the EIA, said while this “makes sense as they have more direct control over the supply chain, this means that the amount of packaging used for popular branded goods is not reducing”.

She added: “We’d like to see supermarkets increasingly taking the fight to the big manufacturers and compelling them in turn to drive down their own plastic footprints. 

“This can be achieved through sourcing policies that reflect packaging reduction requirements and the phasing out of problematic plastics, working with brands to test alternatives and, ultimately, pledges to de-list suppliers which will not comply.” 

The Supermarket Plastics Survey ranking:

1. Waitrose

2. Aldi

3. M&S

4. Lidl 

5. Sainsbury’s

6. Tesco 

7. Asda

8. Coop

9. Morrisons 

10. Iceland

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