Waitrose is showing its green credentials with a pledge not to sell any own-label food in black plastic beyond 2019

After Iceland laid down the gauntlet to rivals over their use of plastic this week, Waitrose has pledged to not sell any own-label food in black plastic beyond 2019.

The move by Waitrose is the earliest date by which a supermarket has committed to specifically removing black plastic from its shelves.

It said reducing the use of plastics was a top priority and that it had already removed 65% of black plastic from its fruit and vegetable packaging. It will stop using black plastic for meat, fish, fruit and vegetables by the end of this year.

The particular problem with black plastic used by retailers and suppliers is that it cannot be recycled as lasers used by waste processors cannot sense the colour effectively.

“Tackling the use of plastics across our business is a key priority for us and we have committed that all our packaging will be widely recycled, reusable or home compostable by 2025. Our work to eliminate black plastic packaging from our shops sees us taking a step towards accomplishing this,” said Waitrose head of sustainability and responsible sourcing Tor Harris.

“Not many people realise that black plastic is tough to recycle. As a retailer dedicated to reducing the impact of plastic packaging on the environment, becoming black plastic-free across all our own-label products is the right thing to do.”

On Tuesday, Iceland announced that it was aiming to become the world’s first major retailer to eliminate plastic packaging from all own-label products within five years.

It will use paper-based alternatives across 1,400 own-label lines.

“The world has woken up to the scourge of plastics. A truckload is entering our oceans every minute, causing untold damage to our marine environment and ultimately humanity - since we all depend on the oceans for our survival, said The Food Warehouse MD Richard Walker, who is driving the project for Iceland.

“The onus is on retailers, as leading contributors to plastic packaging pollution and waste, to take a stand and deliver meaningful change. Other supermarkets, and the retail industry as a whole, should follow suit and offer similar commitments during 2018. This is a time for collaboration.

“There really is no excuse any more for excessive packaging that creates needless waste and damages our environment. The technologies and practicalities to create less environmentally harmful alternatives exist, and so Iceland is putting a stake in the ground.”