Supermarkets agree to ban unnecessary single-use plastic packaging by 2025

Katie Morley
Single-use plastics will only be allowed if they are deemed absolutely necessary and are made from recyclable materials - PA

Every major supermarket in Britain has today pledged to eradicate unnecessary single-use plastics by 2025, under a new "UK Plastics Pact".

The agreement, organised by Government-backed waste charity Wrap, is a world-leading collaborative effort by Britain's biggest consumer companies to tackle the scourge of plastic waste on the environment.

It means single-use plastics will only be allowed if they are deemed absolutely necessary and are made from recyclable materials. 

Non-recyclable plastics including single-use 5p carrier bags, squeezy ketchup bottles, snap pots of yoghurt, and multi-bags of fruit and vegetables, could all be banned if they cannot be made recyclable. 

It comes after Theresa May's recent commitment for the UK to eliminate all avoidable plastic waste by 2042 was accused of "lacking urgency" by environmental groups. 

The silicone in squeezy bottles of sauce contaminates recycling meaning they must be modified or banned under the pledge  Credit: Corbis Documentary

More than 40 firms have promised that all the plastic packaging they produce will be reusable, recyclable or compostable within seven years, while two thirds will be recycled or composted, up from 45 per cent today.

The movement's success will depend heavily on consumers successfully increasing the amount of plastic the recycle at home, however.

To ensure this happens Wrap is planning a major public awareness campaign later this year.  Recycling units across the UK have also signed the pledge and will start recycling a wider variety of plastics which currently go to landfill. 

Over the next seven years supermarkets will stop using "unnecessary" plastic packaging, such as multi-packs of fruit and vegetables, which are expected to be ditched in favour of loose. 

Yoghurts which "snap", like Muller Corner Yoghurts, may be phased out or modified under the UK Plastic Pledge Credit: Muller

Black plastic trays commonly used for ready meals are also expected to be phased out or modified, as well as non-recyclable plastic wraps on items like yoghurts, juices, herbs and flowers.  

The move could also spell the end of squeezy bottles of ketchup and mayonnaise, as the silicone component can contaminate other recycling. An "alternative solution" would need to be found, Wrap said. 

Snap pots of yoghurts, beans and other foods are also under threat as a result of the pledge, as the polystyrene used to make them is not always recyclable.

"Bags for Life" have already become the norm, but single use bags could be phased out entirely Credit: Alamy

The move is a world first with other countries expected to follow the UK's lead in the coming years.  Firms which have signed up will be monitored regularly by Wrap to ensure they are making progress but Wrap said it would not publicly name and shame companies who failed to keep to their promise. 

Major food brands including Nestle, Coca-Cola, Bird's Eye, Britvic and Arla also pledged to eradicate unnecessary single use plastic and will radically change their packaging as a result. 

Environment Secretary, Michael Gove, said: “Our ambition to eliminate avoidable plastic waste will only be realised if government, businesses and the public work together.

Industry action can prevent excess plastic reaching our supermarket shelves in the first place. “I am delighted to see so many businesses sign up to this pact and I hope others will soon follow suit.”

Read more | Plastic pollution

Marcus Gover, chief executive at Wrap, said: "Together, we have a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to rethink and reshape the future of plastic so that we retain its value, and curtail the damage plastic waste wreaks on our planet.

"This requires a wholescale transformation of the plastics system and can only be achieved by bringing together all links in the chain under a shared commitment to act."

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