Iceland becomes the first major retailer to phase out plastic packaging

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In a first-mover action, Iceland has announced its plans to replace plastic packaging from all its own-branded products by 2023, signalling a plastic-free future.

According to the company’s strategy, paper and pulp trays, and paper bags will be used in place of plastic and will be 100 percent recyclable.  All the paper packaging products will be processed through both local waste collection facilities and in-store recycling schemes.

Richard Walker, Iceland’s Managing Director, said: “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”.

He added: “The onus is on retailers, as leading contributors to plastic packaging pollution and waste, to take a stand and deliver meaningful change”.

Before it reached the decision, Iceland carried out a survey of 5,000 people and found out that 80 percent of the respondents would be willing to support such a measure and go plastic-free.

Mr. Walker added that with environmentally friendly technological solutions already available, “there really is no excuse anymore for excessive packaging that creates needless waste and damages our environment”.

The company has also been among the first UK supermarket chains, along with Co-op, to fully support the government initiative to introduce a bottle Deposit Return Scheme (DRS).

“Introducing a DRS may well add to our costs of doing business. However, we believe it is a small price to pay for the long-term sustainability of this planet. I urge all other retailers to do the right thing and follow suit”, Mr. Walker had commented.

Such schemes require consumers to pay a small deposit for the plastic bottle they pay, which is then fully refundable once the empty bottle is returned. The UK discards more than 16 million single-use plastic bottles each day, causing unprecedented damage to ecosystems.  

When Norway introduced a DRS, it saw 96 percent of all plastic bottles being returned diverting millions of plastics from the landfill.

Samantha Harding, from the Campaign to Protect Rural England- one of the oldest environmental charities in the UK, welcomed the news: “Iceland is steadfastly laying the path that all supermarkets should be following”.

“Alongside its support for a deposit return system, Iceland’s commitment to go plastic-free by 2023 shows that powerful retailers can take decisive action to provide what their customers want, without the environment paying for it”, she added. 

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