Asda has told suppliers to “take a step into the unknown” and speed up their reduction of plastic, after bringing forward its own landmark target by five years.
In an open letter to suppliers, CEO Roger Burnley said the industry had been too focused on producing packaging that was simple for consumers rather than good for the environment.
He urged suppliers to come forward with new ideas which Asda would trial over the space of at least three months, some of which could be rolled out at hundreds of stores so they could start working at scale to tackle the crisis.
The supermarket giant has also accelerated its target to reach 30% of recycled content in its plastic packaging to the end of 2020, five years ahead of its original deadline, which it said would avoid the use of nearly 20,000 tonnes of ‘virgin’ plastic.
It also announced a new target to reduce the total amount of plastic used in its own-brand packaging by 15% by February 2021.
Asda is also set to trial a raft of refillable and reusable packaging solutions for customers during 2020.
“Over the past couple of years, our industry has been at the forefront of consumer concern about overuse of plastic packaging, and rightly so,” Burnley says in the letter. “Whilst we all take seriously our responsibility to ensure products reach our customers in the best condition, some of our packaging decisions have been more about making our lives simple than considering the impact we have on the wider environment.
“We know that our customers will always look to us to provide great value products that meet their needs - and they need us to be a part of the solution in tackling the global plastics crisis, not part of the problem.”
In the letter Burnley calls for suppliers’ ideas “around reduced, reusable or recycled plastic solutions”.
“All of these changes require the willingness to take a step into the unknown - and I know that in a highly competitive market, there can often be little room for error. I want to work with suppliers to help smooth out some of those learning curves,” he says.
Asda said it will commit to providing space and opportunity for suppliers to test packaging innovation in a real store, with real customer feedback, whether the ideas are currently scalable to one shop or to hundreds.
He added: “There’s no doubt that many companies understand this. I’m clear that I want Asda to work with suppliers who are taking meaningful action to address the issue and to have products on our shelves that are clearly taking their responsibilities to reducing avoidable plastic seriously.”