Retailer Iceland calls for businesses to reveal their plastic consumption

Frozen food retailer Iceland has published its “plastic footprint” and urged other UK retailers and businesses to do the same.

The company has calulated that the total plastic packaging footprint for its UK and international operations was over 32,000 tonnes in 2019, including more than 1.8 billion items of packaging and almost 93 million plastic bottles. This total includes primary packaging along with the secondary and tertiary packaging used to deliver food to its stores, alongside packaging for the brands it sells.

Iceland argued that greater transparency over how much plastic is used in packaging and transporting food, together with government enforced reduction targets, would lead to a reduction in plastic waste.

The retailer plans to publish its own data on an annual basis.

“We have a huge challenge ahead that can only be solved by businesses and policy makers working together, in tandem with fully informed consumers sharing a completely clear picture of both the country and individual businesses’ total plastic packaging,” said Iceland’s managing director, Richard Walker. “Increased recycling is important but won’t solve the issue on its own. Regulated commitments to reduce plastic pollution are also vital if we are to deliver positive progress in the face of the sheer scale of plastic making its way into the environment.”

In 2018 Iceland made a commitment to eliminate all plastic packaging from its own label products by the end of 2023. It says it has made “significant progress” since then, removing 3,794 tonnes out of the 13,000 tonnes the business was using in January 2018 by the end of 2019 — equating to a 29% reduction.

The new initiative is supported by environmental groups Friends of the Earth, Greenpeace, A Plastic Planet, and Surfers Against Sewage.

A Plastic Planet co-founder Sian Sutherland said: “To quote Peter Drucker, ‘If you can’t measure it, you can’t improve it’. For years UK supermarkets have been hiding behind halftruths and incomplete data, never fully disclosing the enormous scale of the plastic within their own businesses.”

She added: “If the retailers use their collective might, the brands will soon have to follow and we will finally see some real plastic reduction rather than yet more pacts and pledges. Should retailers not volunteer to do the right thing now, Whitehall must move quickly to make transparent plastic reporting a legal requirement.”