Remember that trickle of anti-plastic feeling, for which we can probably thank David Attenborough and his documentary “Blue Planet II”? Well, oh my, has that trickle turned into a flood.
Tesco has become the latest in a string of supermarkets, retailers, and parliaments to crack down on single-use plastic, announcing a ban on all non-recyclable plastic packaging on its “own-brand” products.
The ban will come in by the end of next year and, according to Greenpeace UK, it “has raised the bar for action on problem plastics.”
Supermarkets in the UK generate nearly 1 million tonnes of plastic waste ever year and, as Britain’s biggest supermarket, Tesco has a huge influence when it comes to driving the competition to step up.
“Tesco could be a game-changer on plastic packaging,” said Elena Polisano, oceans campaigner at Greenpeace UK.
The ban will reportedly include packaging like the polystyrene trays used for pizza bases, yoghurt pots, and that PVC wrapping you get on boxes of mushrooms, among other things.
Instead, we’ll be seeing more sustainable options like wood pulp packaging, cardboard, paper, glass, steel, and aluminium.
In another move that’s been praised by environmental campaigners, Tesco is also steering clear of water soluble bioplastics or oxo-degradable plastics — because when they break down, they leave behind environmentally-harmful microplastics. Greenpeace said that showed Tesco was “committing to avoid false solutions.”
Polisano further added in a blog post about Tesco’s pledge that bioplastic packaging doesn’t challenge our throwaway culture. She said instead that supermarkets must “embrace more refillable and reusable packaging options and move away from packaging that’s designed to be used once and then discarded.”
Tesco’s chief product officer Jason Tarry also said that the store was campaigning for the UK to bring in what’s known as a “closed loop system” on packaging — meaning that everything used is collected, recycled, and turned into new products, according to the Earth911 website.
It would need the government and councils across the country to bring in a recycling system that doesn’t differ widely between areas. For example, right now, while some local authorities can recycle plastic packaging, others can’t. This difference between regulations from council to council makes it much harder for members of the public to dispose of their rubbish responsibly.
“To complete the journey to a closed loop approach, we stand ready to work with government to reform the current approach to recycling in the UK,” Tesco said in a statement.
But while it welcomed the action, Greenpeace added that, in the race to be the first supermarket to cut out plastic completely, Tesco is lagging behind the Iceland supermarket chain.
That’s because it hasn’t introduced a “much-needed” yearly target for decreasing its volume of plastic packaging, which, according to Polisano, “all supermarkets must do to curb plastic pollution.”
Hey @Tesco when I say I’d like my stuff delivered without plastic bags it’s for a reason, this is not exactly what I had in mind...each portion of fruit was in a separate bag, pre-packaged meat or fish also in a plastic bag - totally unnecessary and super annoying 🙄👎🏼 pic.twitter.com/Qx91CnPVOV— Vic Hancock Fell (@VicHancockFell) May 16, 2018
Iceland, meanwhile, has pledged to entirely eliminate single-use plastic on own-brand products by 2023, while Lidl has pledged to cut down by 20% by 2022.
“We are challenging all supermarkets to reduce their single-use plastic footprints in the shortest time possible, and in the meantime they should pull out all the stops to remove unnecessary and non-recyclable plastic packaging by 2019,” Polisano added.
"Now we know what it’s doing to our oceans, it simply has to go," she added.
Global Citizen campaigns to achieve the UN’s Global Goals to end extreme poverty, which include action on improving life on land, life below water, and creating sustainable cities and communities. You can join us by taking action on these issues here.