Iceland - Plastics Transparency Announcement - Hero Image

Source: Iceland

If supermarkets are under-reporting their packaging, ocean plastic pollution could be worse than thought, argues Greenpeace UK’s Nina Schrank

Iceland is calling on other retailers to publish figures for their total plastic packaging use, as it reveals its own.

The frozen food specialist has published figures that include primary product packaging, both own label and branded, as well as packaging used in deliveries to stores. They put its total plastic packaging footprint for its UK and international operations at over 32,000 tonnes, including more than 1.8 billion items of packaging and almost 93 million plastic bottles.

Iceland, along with campaign groups Friends of the Earth, Greenpeace, A Plastic Planet and Surfers Against Sewage, is calling for similar transparency from other retailers and wider business.

Iceland is also calling for the government to mandate reporting on plastic packaging and progress towards reduction.

The call is also backed by the Environmental Investigation Agency, which together with Greenpeace produces an annual survey on plastic use by supermarkets, Keep Britain Tidy and international development charity Tearfund.

“Without transparency, and government-enforced reduction targets, we will not be able to judge whether business actions are delivering real progress,” said Iceland MD Richard Walker. “That is why today Iceland is calling on retailers and other businesses to step up and commit to publishing their total plastic packaging transparently, including both own-label and branded products.

“For several years now, businesses have been using incomplete information to represent the scale of their plastic packaging, their commitments to change, and the progress being made. We will all be better served by a more accurate and transparent picture on this issue.”

Publishing the information would not put more costs on businesses than those already set to be imposed from 2023 by the government’s planned extended producer responsibility scheme, Walker argued.

“We have a huge challenge ahead that can only be solved by businesses and policymakers working together, in tandem with fully informed consumers sharing a completely clear picture of both the country and individual businesses’ total plastic packaging,” he said.

Iceland committed at the beginning of 2018 to making own label packaging plastic-free by the end of 2023. The supermarket said today it had so far reduced its plastic use by 29%.

“Our figures show that two-thirds of the plastic packaging we sell relates to brands rather than own label,” added Walker.

“When we made our commitment to eliminate plastic from our own-label products by the end of 2023, we were aware that we would have to take further steps to lead the way in the fight against the scourge of plastic. That is why as well as calling on fellow retailers, businesses and the government, we are also publishing our first plastic packaging footprint to reflect both our impact and the challenge that lies ahead. We can only solve this crisis by working together.”

Friends of the Earth campaigner Tony Bosworth said: “You can’t manage what you don’t measure. Many corporate ambitions for reducing plastic waste may sound impressive, but unless they are clear about how much they’re responsible for in the first place these can be fairly meaningless.

“Ministers must listen to the growing calls for serious action on the plastic crisis by ensuring that bold targets for reducing plastic pollution and waste are included in the Environment Bill.”

Greenpeace UK plastic campaigner Nina Schrank said: “There’s nothing like transparency about a problem to force companies to tackle it, and that’s true of throwaway plastic too. Iceland has made a bold and brave move by publishing their plastic data, and we urge other retailers to follow suit. If UK supermarkets are under-reporting their packaging, ocean plastic pollution could be far worse than we thought and wildlife could be even more at risk.”