Iceland has become the first major retailer to commit to eliminate plastic packaging for all its own-brand products.
The supermarket chain, which specialises in frozen food, said it would to go plastic-free within five years to help end the “scourge” of plastic pollution.
The current plastic packaging would be replaced with paper and pulp trays and paper bags, which would be recyclable through domestic waste collections or in-store recycling facilities.
The supermarket recently carried out a survey in which 80% of 5,000 people polled said they would endorse the move to go plastic-free.
Iceland managing director, Richard Walker, 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.
“The onus is on retailers, as leading contributors to plastic packaging pollution and waste, to take a stand and deliver meaningful change.”
He also said Iceland would ensure all packaging was fully recyclable and would be recycled, through support for initiatives such as a bottle deposit return scheme for plastic bottles.
As it was technologically and practically possible to create less environmentally harmful alternatives, “there really is no excuse any more for excessive packaging that creates needless waste and damages our environment”, Walker added.
Iceland has already removed plastic disposable straws from its own label range and new food ranges being in the next few months will use paper-based food trays.
The move, which has been welcomed by environmental campaigners, comes amid growing concern over plastic pollution in the world’s oceans, where it can harm and kill wildlife such as turtles and seabirds.
Greenpeace UK executive director John Sauven, called the announcement a “bold pledge” and that it was “now up to other retailers and food producers to respond to that challenge”.
Last week, Theresa May pledged to eliminate all avoidable plastic waste within 25 years as part of the government’s environmental strategy.
The prime minister promised to extend the successful 5p levy on plastic bags to smaller shops, as well as exploring a potential charge on single-use plastic containers such as takeaway boxes.
Other initiatives include a plan to urge supermarkets to introduce aisles without any plastic packaging, where all food is sold loose, along with new research funding for “plastics innovation” and aid to help developing nations deal with their plastic waste.
Samantha Harding, from the Campaign to Protect Rural England, said: “Iceland are 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.”