The former CEO of Asda, Andy Clarke, has called for plastic packaging to be binned by all British supermarket stores. Clarke outlined that the billions of pounds invested into recycling plastic packaging by UK retailers has failed to reduce the scale of the worldwide plastic pollution crisis. Clarke suggested the only solution for retailers is to work alongside the UK packaging industry to provide sustainable packaging options in its place.

The global issue of plastic packaging shows no indications of stopping, with investigations by the Guardian highlighting that a million plastic bottles are bought every minute across the world; whilst plastic production is on course to double by 2040 and quadruple by 2050. Currently, 8m tonnes of plastic enters the oceans, and recent studies have highlighted that billions are drinking water contaminated by plastic. In the UK alone, only 29% of the 5m tonnes of plastic is recycled.

“Regardless of how much is invested in Britain’s recycling infrastructure, virtually all plastic packaging will reach landfill or the bottom of the ocean sooner or later. Once there, it will remain on the earth for centuries,” Clarke has stated.

Clarke oversaw many of the failed recycling initiatives at Asda; one including the use of thinner plastic milk bottles that resulted in bursting bottles and more food waste. Radical approaches are therefore needed to stop or, at the very least, alleviate the issues of plastic packaging and its effect on the environment. Clarke, in the same speech, also showed his support for the ‘A Plastic Planet’ campaign that aims to spread the word about alternative packaging.

“We want a future for our grandchildren which is as far as possible plastic-free,” Clarke commented. A sentiment echoed in the opinions of the public, with a Populus poll earlier in the year indicating that 91% of those questioned wanted to see plastic-free aisles in their local supermarkets. With the customers’ support, plastic-free aisles are the first step in solving the crisis, and a point retailers will have to consider in the foreseeable future.

Clarke commented: “The great thing about a plastic-free isle is that it could encourage innovation in packaging many different products, and save environmentally minded consumers the hassle of hunting for environmentally friendly choices across the store.”

Further highlighting the downfalls of plastic, Clarke stated: “Unlike materials like aluminium and glass, plastic packaging cannot be recycled ad infinitum. Most items of plastic packaging can only be recycled twice before they become unusable… Recycling will never offer a durable solution to the plastic crisis- we simply have to use less plastic in the first place.”

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Article by: Iain Clements