Iceland reveals 29% reduction in plastic packaging use

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Iceland has revealed a 29% reduction in its overall plastics packaging usage, two years after pledging to expunge all plastics from its own label product packaging by the end of 2023.

The reduction reflects a removal of 3,794 tonnes from its annual plastic usage, something it accomplished without “passing a penny on to the customer” by investing heavily in making plastic free, sustainable solutions accessible to its millions of customers.

The retailer has seen significant wins across high volume ranges, such as frozen ready meals, where 74 lines have been moved from non-recyclable black plastic and into paperboard-based trays.

In addition to its work to remove black plastic, Iceland has also made significant progress in addressing other difficult to recycle plastics, including PVC and polystyrene.

“To have removed 29% at this stage is a real milestone in our journey and we continue to innovate and develop, week by week and tonne by tonne,” said MD Richard Walker.

“The scale of the challenge we have taken on is huge, partly because of the lack of alternative solutions in some instances, the infrastructure in the manufacturing industry which in many  cases is built around plastic usage, and of course the fact that we are the only retailer to have made a ‘totality’ commitment.

“Whilst we have seen a promising shift away from plastic usage across the industry and a significant increase in consumer awareness of the issue since the beginning of 2018, we remain the only retailer to have made this pledge.

“We’re now looking ahead to the next phase of our journey, whilst continuing to engage our customers by finding scalable and user-friendly solutions, truly democratising choice to make sustainable packaging options an affordable reality for everyone.”

Iceland said that collaboration with suppliers “has been key” to the progress made to date. It has engaged almost 100 own label suppliers to establish working groups and set out frameworks for plastic removal, with a redevelopment plan set out for each and every line.

As well as its work across supply chains, it has collaborated closely with operations colleagues and conducted research with customers to ensure that solutions developed are fit for purpose.

The retailer is also encouraging all of its branded suppliers to take a collaborative approach on plastic packaging reduction.

It has also launched a series of trials to support the research and development needed to fulfil its commitment, and further encourage consumers to reduce their own plastic consumption.

These include a large-scale trial which has reduced plastic across produce lines by 93%, the UK’s first plastic bag free store, the offer of a reduced plastic Christmas range, and installation of reverse vending machines in stores.