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Finance & Innovation

Supermarkets Are Using This New Packaging Label to Eliminate 'Hidden Plastic'

Coffee cups, milk cartons, tea bags, and soap bar sleeves are just some of the everyday products that look like paper, but have plastic woven into them, making them extremely difficult to recycle.

As the scale of plastic pollution around the world becomes clearer, consumers are calling on companies to stop using so much of the material.

Now, supermarkets in the United Kingdom are responding by making “hidden plastic” visible, all with a new “plastic-free” label that will be applied to products that have absolutely no plastic.

Take Action: Call on Governments and Business Leaders to Say No to Single-Use Plastics

The plastic-free “trust mark” is being rolled out in the UK supermarket chain Iceland, and it’s already being used by the Dutch supermarket chain Ekoplaza, according to the Guardian.

The idea came from A Plastic Planet, a nonprofit that seeks to eliminate plastic pollution. Globally, around 380 million metric tons of plastic are created annually and 75% of all the plastic ever created has been thrown away, left to contaminate the environment.

Packaging turns out to be a major driver of this problem. Around 40% of plastic is created for packaging and half of this is for food and drink, according to A Plastic Planet.

The organization is also urging supermarkets to create plastic-free aisles, because, as co-founder Sian Sutherland says in a campaign video, you can buy fat-free, sugar-free, and gluten-free, but you can’t buy plastic-free.

Read More: Activists Are Demanding Plastic-Free Aisles at Major US Grocery Stores

“Our trust mark cuts through the confusion of symbols and labels and tells you just one thing – this packaging is plastic-free and therefore guilt-free,” Sutherland told the Guardian.

The Iceland supermarket chain will apply the plastic-free label to select products in its brand line this month, and will expand it to all products until the company no longer uses plastic, the Guardian reports.

The supermarket chain plans to eliminate plastic in all stores by 2023.

“With the grocery retail sector accounting for more than 40% of plastic packaging in the UK, it’s high time that Britain’s supermarkets came together to take a lead on this issue,” Iceland managing director Richard Walker told the Guardian.

Read More: The US Is Rapidly Running Out of Landfill Space

Other grocery stores are going even further.

For instance, the small UK-based supermarket Eat.Love.Food has no packaging at all. Consumers are expected to bring in reusable containers to carry and hold goods — an extension of the reusable grocery bag movement.

And companies in other sectors are tackling plastic production.

McDonald’s is bringing sustainable packaging to all 37,000 of its locations in the years ahead, consumer goods brands like IKEA and HP are working to make packaging more sustainable, and Starbucks has invested in more sustainable cups.

Read More: Major Australian Supermarkets Ban Single-Use Plastic Bags

Governments have also assumed a leading role. In fact, 16 local, state, and national governments have banned certain forms of plastic. The UK parliament recently announced that it wants to be the world’s first plastic-free body of government.

Taken together, these efforts could make plastic hidden in the sense that it’s nowhere to be found.

Global Citizen campaigns to eliminate single-use plastic production and you can take action on this issue here.