Richard Walker Iceland

Source: Iceland

Walker said Iceland also remained ‘totally focused’ on reducing its use of plastic

Iceland MD Richard Walker has written to the CEOs of other major supermarkets urging them join the frozen specialist in a ‘plastic offsetting’ initiative.

Walker wants other supermarkets to aim to be ‘plastic neutral’ by collecting waste plastic from the environment equal in weight to the plastic created by the business.

Iceland announced earlier this month it was working with Seven Clean Seas, a Singapore-based business that collects plastic pollution from rivers and coastal areas in developing countries, sorts the material and diverts it for recycling where possible. Partners buy credits, each representing plastic collected, which are taken as offsetting the same weight of plastic from their footprint.

Now Walker wants competitors to help Iceland drive scale and create a “more tangible credit market that everyone can get behind, like we now have with carbon credits”.

“If they all do it, it will get more standardised,” Walker told The Grocer.

Plastic offsetting was “undoubtedly a pretty nascent industry, so it’s something that does need scale”, he added.

Iceland had also begun writing to every supplier urging them to sign up to Seven Clean Seas, Walker said. “We’re trying to engage them to do the same and we’ve started to receive letters back, which is good.

“It’s safe to say everyone’s watching with interest.”

Walker used the announcement of the plastic collection initiative to reveal Iceland may not achieve its target of eliminating the material from own label products by the end of 2023. Three years on from making the pledge, progress had become more difficult thanks to increased plastic use in the pandemic and a lack technological innovation in packaging, he said.

The supermarket said work to reduce its plastic use would continue alongside the plastic collection initiative.

Speaking to The Grocer this week, Walker opted not to set a new deadline for eliminating plastic from own label, saying 2023 remained the focus, though achieving it by then may be out of reach.

“We are still hell bent on 2023,” he said.

“As I’ve said, we may not hit that target, but we remain totally focused on it and we’re not going to stop.”