Challenging big companies to reduce plastic

Unless you live under a rock, you will have seen the latest news about just how bad plastic is for the environment. According to some studies, plastic pollution is having a huge impact on our oceans and sealife, with creatures swallowing tiny bits of plastic all the time. You only have to search for ‘plastic pollution’ or ‘plastic ocean’, and you’ll find a variety of different articles, detailing just how bad this problem has become.

Now, big groups of activists have joined together and are fighting back. One particular petition is aimed at big companies to ban plastic cutlery and straws, and has almost 150,000 signatures. The petition states: “Globally, we throw away 500 million straws a day, and according to PlasticOceans.org, we dump 8 million tonnes of single-use plastic in our oceans yearly.” Those are incredibly (and infuriating) figures.

Pressure is also being put on British supermarkets to reduce plastic packaging. As detailed in my recent blog post about my journey to becoming more environmentally conscious, we as individuals can only do so much. Big companies must take more responsibility.

Not only have I signed the petition above, and similar ones, I also contacted Tesco and Asda about their plastic use. I will be contacting other supermarkets and big companies too, but these are the first responses I’ve received.

Asda:

Thank you for contacting us about this issue.
We want our customers to trust that we’re doing the right things on the issues that matter to them. That is why we recently published our commitments to reducing our use of plastic and recycling more.
We’ve already got a strong track record when it comes to reducing our packaging. We’ve reduced out total weight of packaging by 27% since 2007 and are committed to making all our Own Brand packaging recyclable by 2025.
But, we’ve challenged ourselves to look at how we can move faster on this important issue and have identified some immediate actions we can take.
  • Over the next 12 months we will be removing 10% of plastic from all our own brand products as well as continuing to work with our suppliers and other experts to explore new options and find more recyclable solutions.
  • We will be phasing out 5p ‘single use’ carrier bags from our stores in 2018, with a donation from the sale of our “bags for life” going to good causes.
  • We will also introduce a zero profit re-usable coffee cup to provide our customers with a great value alternative to single use cups. Alongside this, we will also be removing all single use cups and plastic cutlery from our head offices in 2018, with all our stores and in store cafes adopting the same policy by the end of 2019.
As part of our longer term work to look at new innovations in plastics and to find different solutions to plastic, we are also working in partnership with the UK’s leading experts in packaging technology at Leeds Beckett University Retail Institute as well as one of our biggest UK suppliers, ABP, on priority projects to develop new alternatives to plastics and more recyclable materials.
Thanks again for taking the time to get in touch and if you wish to read more on our pledge please follow the link below:
Tesco:
Thank you for contacting us.
 As part of our Little Helps plan, we have made the following commitments:
•Making all packaging fully recyclable or compostable by 2025
•Ensuring that all paper and board used will be 100% sustainable by 2025
•Halving packaging weight by 2025 compared to 2007 levels
Our aspirations go further than these targets, and we would like to work in partnership with Government and all of our suppliers to create a closed loop system for packaging.
Across the UK in particular, we see three steps:
1. Materials and design: There is an opportunity to reduce and simplify the types of materials we use in our packaging as part of our product development process in collaboration with our suppliers.
Through the reduction and simplification of the current range and type of materials we accept in our packaging we could create over the longer term a closed loop system based on selecting only recyclable materials.
This in turn can stimulate innovation in the packaging and recycling market through increased demand (e.g. increasing the use of rPET). We will require design innovation from our suppliers, such as greater use of compostable and biodegradable materials.
2. Recovery/recycling: This is one area we need greater innovation and there is opportunity for significant government leadership.
Currently, the inconsistencies in infrastructure and recycling activities between councils make consumer education and closed loop systems impossible to build. We would welcome the creation of an integrated national collection of packaging and investment in innovative recycling facilities. This is essential to a holistic approach to packaging recycling. PRN reform is also a necessary part of the solution and we look to contributing to this process.
We do support developing a cost-effective Deposit Return System (DRS) and are currently working with a number of partners to scope a project to explore how this can operate in practice and at scale. We view DRS as only one aspect of the holistic approach that is required to achieve the broader goals of reducing waste and increasing recycling in the UK.
3. Changing customer behaviour: Behaviour change can only be driven once a recognised and understood recycling infrastructure is in place. Getting this right will support consumer education and practice (failure to do so will lead to frustration for customers and a low take up rate on recycling).
Helping individuals to make the right choices can start with simple, clear and consistent information on packaging supported by other media. We can use marketing and promotions to encourage recycling, use of own containers, and choice of packaging purchase.
These steps will build on the progress we’ve made in recent years:
•In the UK, we have removed polystyrene from our fish packaging and replaced with a more environmentally friendly plastic, avoiding 653 tonnes of polystyrene being used.
•With our meat trays, we have replaced a two layer plastic tray with a single layer plastic, thereby making 84 million trays easier to recycle and removing 96 tonnes of plastic.
•We have made significant changes to the packaging of our wet wipes with a 20% material reduction and removal of 57 tonnes of plastic. This material saving is enough to make over 10 million more packs.
Overall, over 78% of the packaging on all our own brand products is recyclable depending on if the local authority collect it.
Thank you once again for taking the time to contact us.
It seems like they’re all making the right noises, and it’s certainly a step in the right direction, but now isn’t the time to let up the pressure. We have to start putting our money where our mouths are, and boycotting companies that refuse to take responsibility.
I’ve been on a journey to swap my cosmetics and toiletries to cruelty free (and vegan and natural, where possible), deciding to take a moral stand and refuse to give my money to companies who don’t care about these things, so why not do it with packaging waste too? We’ve recently started buying our milk from an old-fashioned milkman, who not only provides milk in glass bottles, but they also take the empty ones away to be reused. We’ve also swapped to Ocado for our shopping, buy our meat and cheese from the local farm shop, and always refuse single use bags.
While this is a lifestyle choice, it also doesn’t make sense to me that people don’t care about the environment. This is our planet, and we won’t get another one. We cannot continue to abuse it.
Let me know if you’ve had any positive responses from big companies regarding their environmental policies!
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7 thoughts on “Challenging big companies to reduce plastic

  1. It’s good to know some of the big supermarkets are tackling the problem finally! Next we conquer the corner stores.
    I have also started refusing any and all single use carrier bags in favour of my own rucksacks/handbags and bag for life type bags (which I recently found out when they break Tesco replace them free of charge) keep up the good work!!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes, I always try to have a reusable bag in the car, or go without a bag! One thing I’m struggling with is receipts. Most of them use thermal paper so they can’t be recycled. We need a way to stop shops from printing them, as just refusing them means the cashier throws them in the bin instead!

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      1. wow, I have never thought about that but now that I do I fail to see why they cannot use the ordinary paper that some of the banks and post offices use instead. This is a serious issue and it is my opinion that it needs to be addressed ASAP.
        I spent a couple of weeks working in a primary school, when parents would come in to purchase an item of uniform or a bag we would hand write the receipt on a sheet of paper from a tear out book as it could be recycled, and in fact overtime it worked out cheaper (Or so the other staff told me) So why can supermarkets not use a recyclable material as well?

        Liked by 1 person

      2. I think it’s because of the way they’re printed, it has to be on thermal paper, making them non-recylable. The best way of dealing with this would be for councils to open up recycling facilities for things like this! Or for companies to invest in alternatives to thermal paper. There’s so much to this once you really start looking!

        Liked by 1 person

  2. It’s so great to hear that supermarkets are changing their policies, I had no idea! Especially with own brand stuff. Still, some of those stats feel minor compared to the overall problem, it’d be ideal everything was plastic free- and is possible to do. I totally agree with you about the power of the consumer though, everyone can make a difference.
    Great read, thank you!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It’s so frustrating because, as individuals, we can only do what we can do. It’s down to the companies to do more, with their money and lack of tax paying :p

      Liked by 1 person

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