Consumers are starting to reject the use of single-use plastics, as this Financial Times letter from leading supermarket and business CEOs highlights. Business as usual is no longer an option for plastics producers, as I discussed on Monday.
Sir, The UK’s retailers make a vital contribution to the economy. With revenues of more than £380bn, the sector employs 4.6m people in the UK. Over the past decade Britain’s retailers have in the main focused on recycling in a bid to reduce the environmental impact of the plastic waste they produce. But we have to accept that this isn’t enough — by recycling plastic, we are merely recycling the problem.
Unlike materials such as aluminium and glass, plastic packaging cannot be recycled ad infinitum. Most plastic packaging items can only be recycled twice before becoming unusable. 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. It is therefore essential that retailers and packaging manufacturers work together to turn off the tap of throwaway packaging. Retailers should take advantage of the raft of zero-plastic packaging solutions that provide a real alternative to conventional plastic.
Campaign group A Plastic Planet believes supermarkets can drive a shift away from throwaway packaging by introducing a plastic-free aisle in their stores. We agree. A plastic-free aisle would be good for business. With at least a third of consumers saying that they base their purchasing decisions on the social and environmental impact of the products they buy, a plastic-free aisle would help supermarkets win over this growing band of informed consumers.
We call on the UK’s retailers to support this imaginative initiative, and help us to secure a better future for our children and grandchildren.
Former CEO, Asda
Sir Ian Cheshire
Lord Rose of Monewden
Former CEO, Argos; former Chairman and CEO, Marks and Spencer
Lord MacLaurin of Knebworth
Former Chairman, Tesco
Lord Stone of Blackheath
Former Managing Director, Marks and Spencer
Lord Jones of Birmingham
Former Chief Executive, British Soft Drinks Association
Lord Cameron of Dillington
Former National President, Country Land and Business Association
Baroness Scott of Needham Market
Former Board Member, Lloyds Register; Party President, Liberal Democrats
Former Co-Secretary and Legal Director, Kingfisher
Lord Foster of Bath
Associate, Global Partners Governance
Lord Hodgson of Astley Abbotts
Former Director, Marston’s
Former Attorney General
Former Director, Oxfam
Baroness Miller of Chilthorne Domer
Unicef Board Member
Lord Rees of Ludlow
Baroness Lister of Burtersett
Author and Professor
Managing Director, Weleda UK