Those involved the supermarket sector have recently come under pressure from consumers to reduce their plastic packaging
Whether it’s doing their bit to save the planet or simply improving the health of those living on it, businesses in the supermarket sector have been making big changes to their packaging policies over the past few years.
The end of the 2010s saw the issue of plastic waste move up the agenda for those involved in the marketplace.
Reusable schemes, too, have become more prevalent — with both the UK-based Waitrose and the French Carrefour supermarket chains testing their own systems.
We look at the work being done by some of the sector’s biggest businesses in 2020.
Packaging policies in the supermarket sector in 2020
Plastic shrink-wrap is in Tesco’s sights for 2020, with the retail giant announcing in January that it would be removing the material from its tinned multipack products.
Due to be enacted in March, customers will be offered “multibuy” deals, where they’ll be able to purchase several individual tins at the same price as the erstwhile multipack.
The firm says it will result in 67 million pieces of plastic being eliminated from its UK stores.
Tesco CEO Dave Lewis said at the time: “We are removing all unnecessary and non-recyclable plastic from Tesco.
“As part of this work, removing plastic-wrapped multipacks from every Tesco store in the UK will cut 350 tonnes of plastic from the environment every year and customers will still benefit from the same great-value ‘multipack’ price.”
This move is part of Tesco’s effort to remove one billion pieces of plastic packaging from its stores by the end of 2020.
German supermarket chain Lidl began 2020 with a shift towards more sustainable packaging.
Through a partnership with the Meade Potato Company, 100% of its packaged potato products in Ireland will be sold in compostable materials.
The new bags have been made available in all of the country’s 162 stores.
Meade Potato Company commercial manager Philip Meade Jr said: “The introduction of this bag represents a win for the environment and the consumer.
“Plastic that is hard to recycle has been eliminated completely and replaced with paper that can be composted, ending up ultimately as fertiliser, possibly for growing more potatoes.”
In the same month, the company announced it would remove cartoon characters from its own-brand Crownfield cereal products.
Towards the end of January, 2020, UK-based supermarket chain Sainsbury’s committed to becoming a net-zero carbon emitter by 2040.
The firm said it will invest £1bn ($1.2bn) over the next 20 years to implement programmes that will focus on reducing carbon emissions, food waste and plastic packaging.
As part of this work, Sainsbury’s will remove all hard-to-recycle plastic and polystyrene packaging from its own-brand ranges by the end of 2020.
The firm is also piloting deposit return schemes — where customers recycle bottles in exchange for 5p coupons — in five of its stores.
UK-based frozen food specialists Iceland began 2020 trialling plastic-free products.
Launched on 22 January in 33 of the company’s stores in London and the south-east of England, it aims to reduce its plastic packaging content in its fresh produce ranges by 93%.
The shops offer customers the opportunity to buy 38 fruit and vegetable lines — including oranges and celery— with new packaging solutions that are either plastic-free or contains a reduced amount of the material.
It’s part of the company’s commitment to remove plastic from all of its own-label products by the end of 2023.
Iceland’s managing director Richard Walker said: “We understand that consumers are particularly aware of the amount of plastic being used to package produce across the industry and we’ve been working hard to develop user-friendly sustainable alternatives.
“This trial is the largest ever of its kind and we’re excited to see how customers respond to the range of solutions provided.”
In January 2020, Dutch supermarket giant Spar began trialling refillable stations for detergents.
The initiative, called Planet Pure, is being tested at two of the company’s “hypermarkets” in the Austrian cities of Vienna and Salzburg.
To use the system, customers have to purchase a bottle from one of these stores, which can be filled with a product of their choice.
It’s part of Interspar – a subsidiary of Spar – Austria’s commitment to reducing unnecessary plastic packaging.
The company’s managing director Markus Kaser said: “This new refill concept protects the environment in many ways.
“Planet Pure is an innovative partner who developed the world’s first eco-certified detergent in 2011.”
Supermarket chain Asda announced a refillable packaging and bottle recycling trial at its first “test and learn” sustainability store in January.
The pilot, which will take place at one of its stores in Leeds, will provide areas where shoppers can fill their own containers with its own-brand coffee, rice and pasta.
It has also partnered with the likes of Kellogg’s and Unilever, extending refill stations to big-name products such as Coco Pops, Rice Krispies and PG Tips.
Asda CEO Roger Burnley said: “Our first priority will be to look at how we can reduce and remove plastic and I am excited to learn from our customers and see where this journey will take us.”