UK Supermarket Chain Sainsbury’s Bans Plastic Fruit and Veg Bags

Customers can bring their own containers for loose fruit or buy a bag made from 100 percent recycled plastic for 30p ($0.40).

03.10.2019 | by Christy Romer
Photo by Sainsbury's
Photo by Sainsbury's

Sainsbury’s, one of the largest supermarkets in the UK, has just introduced a country-wide ban on the use of disposable plastic bags to collect loose fruit, vegetables and baked goods in its stores.

Instead, customers shopping for fruit and veg will be forced to either bring their own containers or buy a recycled drawstring bag—made from 100 percent recycled plastic—for 30p ($0.40).

In the bakery section, they’ll be able to make use of recyclable plastic bags.

The supermarket says that the ban will remove 515 tonnes of plastic each year, which forms part of a wider initiative to cut 1,284 tonnes of plastic in 2019.

More ambitiously, the ban is one of a huge number of steps that Sainsbury’s is taking to reach an ambitious goal to ensure all plastic packaging is reusable, recyclable or compostable by 2025.


Sainsbury’s trials

This followed a trial in two stores in Lincoln and Kidlington, in which it said customer feedback was “resoundingly positive.”

Speaking about the trial, Judith Batchelar, director of Sainsbury’s brand, commented that the shop was “pleased to be making a further commitment to our customers as we work with them to offer new ways to reduce unnecessary plastic.”

Most ambitiously, Sainsbury’s wants to reduce plastic packaging by 50 percent by 2025. In 2018, it used around 120,000 tonnes of plastic packaging per year—meaning it would need to make 60,000 tonnes of savings.

It says that in order to meet its goal, Sainsbury’s will launch a programme to accelerate change, including switching to alternative materials, using lighter weight plastic and introducing refillable packaging at scale. It says the key areas of focus for impact are plastic milk bottles, packaging for fruit and vegetables, fizzy drinks, water and fruit juices.

“Some of these alternatives will require customers to change their behaviour – for example, plastic milk bottles are currently one of the largest sources of plastic packaging,” a company statement reads. “Sainsbury’s is reviewing alternative options including the introduction of refillable bottles, introducing returnable milk bottles or offering a reusable jug with milk in a lightweight plastic pouch.”

The supermarket is working with Greenpeace on its commitments and will report publicly on progress every six months.


Other steps

In addition, the supermarket has also removed:

  • Plastic cutlery from stores
  • Plastic lids from cream pots
  • Plastic trays for carrots, tomatoes, asparagus and sweetcorn
  • Plastic sleeves from herb pots
  • Microbeads from its own brand products

And it has pledged to replace:

  • Black plastic trays with recyclable alternatives
  • Trays for eggs with a fibre alternative
  • PVC and polystyrene trays with a recyclable alternative.

The supermarket is also trialling an innovative ‘pre-cycle area’ for customers, in which they can remove unwanted packaging and leave it for recycling before leaving the store. Sainsbury’s says it expects this to recycle 1,000 items per store per day.

Deposit return schemes are being piloted so customers can return recyclable packaging, and there will be recycling facilities at a further 125 stores, taking the number to 400.

Customers can submit further ideas to help reduce plastic packaging on a dedicated microsite.

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