UK: Morrisons launches “bring-your-own-packaging” scheme

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26 Jun 2018 --- UK supermarket chain, Morrisons, will encourage shoppers to bring their own plastic containers to the meat and fish counter in exchange for 100 loyalty card points, the equivalent of 10 pence. The move comes as part of a series of pledges to reduce plastic pollution, including guarantees that all own-brand plastic packaging will be reusable, recyclable or compostable by 2025.

Morrisons is due to becomes one of the signatories to WRAP’s UK Plastics PACT, an industry initiative which aims to transform the way businesses use plastic and prevent plastics polluting the environment.

Morrisons’ strategy to reduce plastic pollution include:
•    Allowing customers to use their own containers for meat and fish from the Morrisons’ Market Street Butcher and Fishmonger counters from May.
•    Working through all of its own brand products to identify, reduce and remove any unnecessary plastic packaging.
•    Trialing the effect of removing plastic packaging from fruit and vegetables in a number of stores. The aim is to look at how plastic packaging, which keeps food fresh, can be reduced without increasing food waste.
•    Making more packaging recyclable. One of the first pieces of packaging to be replaced will be black plastic trays, used for fresh meat and fish. They will be phased out by the end of 2019.
•    Fitting drinking water fountains into new stores. Morrisons has already made water freely available in its cafés for customers who want to refill their water bottles.

The company is taking action as its own research says that plastic reduction is now the third most important issue for Morrisons’ customers.

Currently, 82 percent of the plastic by weight in the supermarket's packaging is recyclable. To achieve the 100 percent target, it will be collaborating with suppliers, other retailers, local authorities and WRAP.

Plastic reduction work already completed includes:
•    Morrisons no longer buys plastic drinking straws.
•    Morrisons now only buys cotton buds with paper stems rather than plastic ones.
•    Morrisons no longer sells 5 pence single-use carrier bags.

David Potts, Chief Executive of Morrisons, comments: “Reducing the damage caused by plastic is one of the most challenging issues society can address. Because we make most of the fresh food we sell, we're in an important position to make changes to our packaging. Joining WRAP's Plastic PACT also offers a special opportunity to work collaboratively to take this opportunity.”

Since 2010, Morrisons reports a reduction in the weight of packaging used across its Market Street counters by 50 percent (10,000 tons).

Plastics campaigner response
Tatiana Lujan, a wildlife conservation lawyer, speaks to FoodIngredientsFirst on behalf of the Rethink Plastic Alliance about Morrisons’ bring-your-own-packaging scheme: “Public pressure is mounting, as people become increasingly aware of the role supermarkets play in plastic pollution. As an intensive plastic-using industry, supermarkets are exposed to the business risks that derive from plastic pollution; like more demanding laws regulating plastic, and the risks of damage to a company’s reputation by being associated with plastic pollution.”

“Customers want supermarkets to take responsibility for the packaging they use and reduce unnecessary plastic packaging. Because of this, we hope more supermarkets will be proactive and encourage consumers to bring their own packaging.”

“This scheme opens up the possibility of reducing pollution to a large portion of society that does not have the time or money to buy groceries from specialized markets that already provide products plastic-free. It will also prove that selling products without plastic, or in reusable packaging, is both practical and profitable,” Lujan adds.

An increasing number of supermarkets are exploring initiatives to improve their environmental sustainability. Recently, Dutch supermarket, Jumbo, launched its “natural label” – a laser technology that makes it possible to display the indication of “organic” directly onto fruit and vegetable produce, without the need for additional packaging material.

Meanwhile, UK supermarket giant, Tesco, announced its aspirations for a “closed loop” packaging system, calling on the government to support with national recycling infrastructure.

Likewise, Iceland has become the first UK supermarket to install a reverse vending machine in-store in support of the government’s recently announced intention to introduce a Deposit Return Scheme in England.

“We are already starting to see some supermarkets install plastic bag recycling points where customers can deposit plastic film items like carrier bags, bread bags, plastic wrappers and bottles,” says Lujan. “While this helps avoid contamination of plastic film and increases recycling, it would be even better if more supermarkets follow Morrisons’ lead and sell products without disposable packaging altogether, encouraging customers to bring their own containers.”

“We celebrate this measure and call on other supermarkets to follow suit to help customers reduce their plastic footprint. Morrisons clearly believe that selling products without plastic packaging is both practical and profitable, which we fully encourage at Rethink Plastics,” Lujan concludes.

By Joshua Poole and Laxmi Haigh

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