Sainsbury’s is joining a growing number of retailers that are promising to slash the amount of plastic they use.
The British food retailer said Friday that it had committed to reduce plastic in its business 50% by 2025.
“We are well aware that this is ambitious as we currently use around 120,000 tonnes of plastic per year and reduce plastic packaging by around 1% each year,” the supermarket chain said in a statement.
Retailers and manufacturers are facing increasing pressure from governments and consumers to reduce pollution. In the United Kingdom, concerns about plastic in oceans have grown after the BBC broadcast Blue Planet II.
Plastics are one of the biggest man-made pollutants in the marine environment, with up to 2.4 million tonnes entering oceans each year from rivers alone, according to an article published in Nature Communications.
More than 1.5 million people had signed a Greenpeace petition calling on UK supermarkets to ditch throwaway plastic packaging, the advocacy organization said.
Sainsbury’s said its efforts would focus on plastic milk bottles, fruit and vegetable packaging, and bottled beverages.
“Sainsbury’s is reviewing alternative options including the introduction of refillable [milk] bottles, introducing returnable milk bottles or offering a reusable jug with milk in a lightweight plastic pouch,” the company said.
Plastic trays for fresh food would be replaced with recyclable alternatives by the end of 2019, saving 6,000 tons of plastic. Plastic film on fruit and vegetables would be replaced with a recyclable alternative by the end of 2020.
Sainsbury’s ranked last in a Greenpeace survey published in March that analyzed public commitments on plastics made by major UK supermarkets.
After the survey was published, more than 95,000 people emailed Sainsbury’s CEO Mike Coupe urging him to take action on plastics, according to Greenpeace.
Sainsbury’s said earlier this year that it was disappointed by the Greenpeace report. On Friday, the company denied that it had fallen behind its competitors.
A spokeswoman for the company said it had led the way in removing microbeads, or small pieces of plastic, in its own brand products. She also said the chain was among the first to only offer paper cotton swabs.
The commitment announced Friday was a “victory” for customers who had lobbied Sainsbury’s to do better on plastic, Louise Edge, head of Greenpeace UK’s ocean plastics campaign, said in an emailed statement.
“We commend Sainsbury’s for listening and recognizing that huge plastic reduction and bringing in refillable packaging at scale are vital to tackling the plastic pollution crisis,” Edge said.
In a video posted on its website on Friday, Coupe said Sainsbury’s would work with Greenpeace and report its progress every six months.
The UK’s Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee this week called on the British government to focus on reducing all single use packaging, not just plastic.