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British retailers struggle with excessive plastic packaging due to Covid-19

Jul, 2021

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A report by Greenpeace UK and EIA found that top 10 supermarkets within the UK have flooded the market collectively, in 2019, with 896,853 tons worth single-use plastic.

Covid-19 didn’t just disrupt normal social lives, but even affected the choices of consumers. Through this situation, mismanagement in the plastic packaging of food was prevalent. For ensuring food safety, companies excessively relied on single-use plastics for mitigating the disease’s potential risk. Within the UK, it resulted in the government for suspending its charge of 5p on disposable plastic bag for the home deliveries in March 2020. Companies including Tesco, Sainsbury’s, Asda, and Morrison’s rolled out the plastic egg cartons during the same time period as stock couldn’t keep up with the demands of egg boxes made with cartons. Loose fruits and vegetables were less purchased due to potential risk of contamination.

However, solutions to crisis of plastic packaging aren’t always such handy. Iceland, a frozen food company struggled with designing packaging solutions, in which 90% trials resulted in failure, as termed by Richard Walker, Iceland Food’s Managing Director. Plastic packaging isn’t that versatile - accommodation of various needs including air-tightness and strength often needs the mixture of several plastics in one item. The plastic packaging’s hybrid nature in turn could hamper its recyclability. Getting the balance in sustainability and convenience could be believed as the major challenge for the industry of plastic packaging, one acknowledged openly by Claire Hughes, director of product and innovation, Sainsbury.

The Sainsbury has aimed to decrease its 120,000 tons of plastic usage annually up to 50% by 2025. This retail chain even begun picking up the local city councils’ slack by inviting consumers for returning their polypropylene and polyethylene flexible film to recycle, commonly used in salad bags, biscuits, cake wrappers, and frozen food, since these often are ineligible to recycle at the council recycling centers. The report by Greenpeace UK and EIA found that top 10 supermarkets within the UK have flooded the market collectively, in 2019, with 896,853 tons worth single-use plastic.

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