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Sainsbury’s accused of not doing enough on plastics

Sainsbury’s has reacted to ongoing pressure from environmental campaigners Greenpeace to reduce the plastic packaging it produces by announcing a number of measures – but has fallen short of committing to annual reduction targets.

Greenpeace was behind a viral video, spoofing Sainsbury’s slogan ’Live well for less’ with ’Couldn’t care less’ about plastic waste. In March the campaign’s research found that Sainsbury’s – out of all the UK major supermarkets – was doing the least to reduce plastic packaging.

Last week campaigners delivered shopping trolleys full of plastic packaging collected from customers outside stores to the company’s London HQ, alongside 4,724 Twitter complaints from Sainsbury’s customers about plastic packaging. A further 2,309 handwritten complaints were also delivered, and campaigners rebranded the exterior of the HQ with the ’Couldn’t care less’ spoof slogan.

In response, Sainsbury’s has removed plastic packaging from its sweetheart and savoy cabbages, and says it plans to end the use of dark-coloured plastics by March next year. It also announced plans to trial areas where customers can de-package products in-store – although this has attracted further criticism, with Greenpeace dismissing the initiative as “missing the point”.

Sainbury’s chief executive Mike Coupe has said the chain was “serious about reducing plastic”, and that it has already removed or reduced 8,101 tonnes of non-recyclable plastic and virgin plastic every year. He also added that, during the next 12 months, Sainsbury’s will remove a further 1,280 tonnes of plastic from products and ensure all plastic packaging is reusable, recyclable or compostable by 2025.

But Greenpeace said it was surprised Sainsbury’s made a public announcement that it had so far removed 309 tonnes of plastic because it is just 0.25% of its 2018 plastic footprint. Sainsbury’s says it has reduced a further 7,792 tonnes.

While the campaign group says it is “pleased” Sainsbury’s has listened by moving away from black plastic and hard-to-recycle plastics, like other supermarkets it is not enough and they want annual reduction targets introduced.

Greenpeace UK ocean plastics campaigner Elena Polisano said: “Inviting customers to remove unwanted plastic packaging as they leave the store shows Sainsbury’s is missing the point. It is producing too much plastic packaging in the first place, and should be cutting it out rather than focusing on recycling and shifting responsibility for plastic packaging on to their customers.

“Sainsbury’s must go much further and set yearly reduction targets and pledge to eliminate unnecessary plastic by the end of next year.”

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