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Iceland returns to plastic despite commitment to remove it from stores

Iceland's trial of a plastic-packaging-free store has failed to impress customers

Iceland returns to plastic despite commitment to remove it from stores

After failing to successfully launch bananas packaged without plastic, Iceland has reintroduced plastic bags for the fruit. 

In February 2019, Iceland launched bananas sold wrapped only in a paper band. But they failed to impress shoppers, and plastic bags were reinstated.

At the same time, Iceland launched a plastic-free grocery trial in a supermarket in Liverpool. This trial was unsuccessful and it was scrapped in May after three months and a 20% drop in sales.

This followed the supermarket announcing a commitment to removing plastic packaging from all of its own-brand products by 2023. Now Iceland has said it will relaunch a different plastic-free packaging for bananas in the next few days.

Supermarkets including Asda, Tesco and Waitrose already sell bananas without packaging, as we found in our recent supermarket packaging investigation.

Does food need to be wrapped in plastic?

Some people argue that bananas do not need to be packaged at all. ‘Bananas last a lot longer in a plastic bag,’ explains Peter Andrews from the British Retail Consortium, ‘but how long they would stay in that bag is negligible.’ Most people take their bananas out of the plastic and put them into their fruit bowls.

Yet some foods do need to be wrapped in plastic to prevent cross contamination and food waste. Food waste is arguably just as big a problem as plastic packaging. When food is thrown away we’re not just wasting food but the energy used to make it.

However, some foods are wrapped in an unnecessary amount of plastic packaging that is not very easy to recycle.

What supermarkets are doing about plastic packaging?

Just 52% of supermarket packaging could be easily recycled in our latest investigation into single-use plastic packaging.

We analysed packaging from a range of popular own-brand supermarket groceries and added up how many individual pieces of plastic could be easily recycled.

Read more about our investigation into plastic in our guide to supermarket packaging

Coming near the middle of our table, Iceland had more easy-to-recycle items than difficult-to-recycle ones. In total, 66.7% of items were easy to recycle at kerbside. However, this is a long way off the retailer’s commitment to remove plastic packaging from all own-label products by 2023.

The table below shows how much supermarket packaging (including plastic, glass and cardboard) is easy to recycle:

Iceland recyclable content:

We were disappointed to find that Iceland was still using notoriously difficult-to-recycle black PET in the shepherd’s pie ready-meal that we looked at.

The Iceland pile of plastic pales in comparison to the worst offender: Morrisons. Only 38% of the Morrisons shop we analysed was made up of packaging that can be commonly recycled at kerbside.

See Morrisons’ recyclable content below:

We were particularly disappointed that Morrisons.com customers could not order groceries online without plastic packaging. When we asked customer services, they said it was not possible to request items without it. This is despite Morrisons selling plastic-free fruit and vegetables in-store.

Overall, we were very disappointed with all of the supermarkets’ quantities of non-recyclable packaging and feel that unnecessary plastic packaging needs to be dealt with as a matter of urgency.

How you can recycle better

While we wait for the supermarkets and government to take action, you can recycle better by following best-practice recycling advice:

  • Check the labels

Only 58% of supermarket packaging is labelled correctly. If you don’t know your PET from your Green Dot, you’re not alone. Follow our labelling guide to stop any confusion.

  • Recycle at supermarkets

Some things that can’t be recycled at home can be recycled at supermarkets and other plastic collection points. Find out more at recyclenow.com.

  • Reduce your plastic use

Take a look at what you’re using and think about plastic-free alternatives. Swap single-use coffee cups for a travel mug, avoid using clingfilm and opt for tupperware boxes and buy a reusable water bottle to fill with tap water.

Find more tips on our guide to recycling. Or if you’re trying to cut your environmental impact in general, you can also look into solar panels and renewable energy solutions for your home.

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