Iceland’s frosty challenge to other supermarkets for complete transparency on plastic packaging

Grocery retail giant Iceland today (16 September) announced its full and accurate plastic packaging footprint for 2019 as 31,000 tonnes, highlighting concerns about how inaccurate reporting from the UK retail sector is holding back meaningful action on plastic pollution.

It has called on other major supermarkets to increase transparency in the lead up to EIA and Greenpeace’s third supermarket survey, Checking Out on Plastics, and wants the UK Government to introduce mandatory reporting and reduction targets.

Since 2018, EIA and Greenpeace have been working with UK supermarkets to monitor the sector’s plastic footprint and assess what actions are taking place to practically reduce the consumption of plastic.

To achieve the bold systemic change needed to turn the tide on plastic pollution, companies must tell the truth about the extent of the challenge.

However, Iceland’s announcement today highlights concerns that companies may have provided incomplete information on plastic usage to conceal the true extent of the problem.

Iceland’s 2019 figure of 31,000 tonnes of plastics across its UK and international operations includes its primary packaging along with the secondary and tertiary packaging used for branding, logistics and to deliver goods to its stores, much of which was omitted from the last two Checking Out on Plastics reports.

Critically, the figures identify the importance of the whole sector working together to influence the major household brands to reduce plastic packaging.

Christina Dixon, EIA’s Senior Ocean Campaigner, said: “EIA fervently welcomes Iceland’s leadership and its call to arms for businesses to genuinely commit to plastic reduction and complete transparency.

“We urge retailers to heed this rallying call while completing our annual survey for the third Checking Out on Plastics report to ensure there’s no hiding behind numbers.”

The frozen food specialist is also urging the UK Government to include mandatory reporting and reduction targets in its Environment Bill – the critical piece of legislation behind its 25 Year Environment Plan. As one of the organisations leading efforts to secure a global treaty to combat plastic pollution, EIA strongly echoes this call to the Government to increase its ambition.

A core pillar of the potential new treaty is establishing the monitoring and reporting systems needed at the national level to track plastic leakage, as well as our progress towards a circular economy. Without legally binding reporting and reduction targets, our ability to meaningfully manage and tackle this crisis is hampered.

Dixon added: “It is now clear that combining progressive industry action with ambitious policy-making will set us on the best path for combatting plastic pollution.

“Now is the time for the UK to display leadership and commit to tangible efforts to reduce plastic consumption, shift into a truly circular economy and protect our shared environment for the future.”

This year’s Checking Out on Plastics survey is currently being completed by the top grocery retailers in the UK and is due for release later this year.