Andy Clarke, the former CEO of UK retail chain Asda, has called on supermarkets to stop using plastic packaging on their products.
Speaking to The Guardian, Clarke said that it is vital that the UK packaging industry and supermarkets work together to resolve the issues surrounding plastic pollution.
“Go into any supermarket in the country, and you will be met by a wall of technicolour plastic,” said Clarke. “Be it fruit and veg or meat and dairy, plastic encases virtually everything we buy.
“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."
Although many supermarkets have introduced efforts to cut down on waste and encourage recycling, Clarke says that a more radical approach is needed.
The former supermarket boss, who stepped down as Asda CEO last year, said that retailers need to reject plastic entirely and switch to more sustainable alternatives, like paper, steel, glass and aluminium.
Clarke has backed A Plastic Planet, a UK-based group that is campaigning to introduce plastic-free aisles in supermarkets.
The group has said that the grocery industry made "solid gains" in reducing the environmental impact of providing food and drink products to consumers, but has "failed to adequately address the pollution crisis".
"In the UK, we currently produce more than 3.5 million tonnes of plastic each year, almost half of which is packaging from food and drink products," said Sara Vaughan, head of partnerships at A Plastic Planet.
"With the UK grocery market worth an estimated £163 billion, it’s clear that supermarkets are ideally placed to drive lasting change in this area," said Vaughan.
Across Europe, retailers have gradually been introducing new initiatives and creating alternatives to traditional plastic packaging.
For example, Germany's Rewe has tested packaging made from dried grass, Coop Netherlands has introduced biodegradable meat packaging, Kekso has launched wood-fibre-based boxes for fish in Finland, and back in the UK, Marks & Spencer has introduced avocados with laser-printed bar codes to reduce waste in its stores.
© 2017 European Supermarket Magazine – your source for the latest retail news. Article by Sarah Harford. Click subscribe to sign up to ESM: The European Supermarket Magazine.