Billions of pieces of plastic put on supermarket shelves each year

Analysis of information requested from retailers by Greenpeace and the Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA) reveals 10 supermarkets are putting more than 810,000 tonnes of single-use plastic on the market every year.

Seven retailers are putting in circulation some 59 billion pieces of branded and own brand plastic packaging a year, from yogurt pots to food wrappers and shampoo bottles, the campaign groups said.

Greenpeace UK oceans campaigner Elena Polisano said: “Much of the throwaway plastic packaging filling up our homes comes from supermarket shelves, but high street giants are still not taking full responsibility for it.

“So far most retail bosses have responded to growing concern from customers with a pick-and-mix of different plastic announcements, but have failed to come up with the coherent plastic reduction plans required to solve this problem.”

She said: “Supermarkets need to check out on throwaway plastic fast.”

Sarah Baulch, EIA senior ocean campaigner, said: “It is abundantly clear that we cannot simply recycle our way out of the plastic pollution crisis, and yet this remains the priority area of focus for many major chains.

“Retailers must pioneer new ways to reduce their plastic footprint across the entire supply chain.”

The survey was sent to the UK’s 11 largest supermarkets by market share and six grocery chains with more than 1,000 stores under their brand.

The major supermarkets were ranked according to their commitments to reduce single-use plastic, eliminate non-recyclable packaging, engage with supply chains and transparent reporting.

Iceland came top and Sainsbury’s last.

A Sainsbury’s spokeswoman said: “We are very disappointed with this result, which doesn’t reflect our efforts over many years to reduce the amount of packaging we use and ensure it’s recyclable.

“We know reducing plastic is important to customers and we are one of few retailers to invest in plastic recycling facilities at many of our supermarkets.”

She added that “83% of our own packaging is classed as widely recycled and we have ambitious targets to increase this further”.

It was revealed earlier this month that “Single-use” is Collins’ Word of the Year, popularised by the increasing call to ban materials that damage the environment and pollute the food chain.

Helped by global movements, including Sky’s Ocean Rescue campaign, the term single-use has been on the front page of every paper and in news articles across the world.

Research commissioned by Sky Ocean Rescue shows that six in 10 Britons think single-use plastic will be socially unacceptable by 2021.

In addition, seven in 10 say that common single-use plastics should carry warnings like those on cigarette packets.

Sky Ocean Rescue has got together with celebrities including Kate Moss, Cara Delevingne, Rita Ora and HRH Princess Eugenie of York to launch a limited-edition reusable product range, pictured above.

:: Sky’s Ocean Rescue campaign encourages people to reduce their single-use plastics. You can find out more about the campaign and how to get involved at

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