Leading grocery retailers unveiled another round of plastic waste reduction initiatives this week as part of the industry’s wider drive to lessen its impact on the environment.

Following a similar move by Asda earlier this month, Tesco announced that it will stop using carrier bags to deliver groceries from its online business. The decision, which follows six months of trials, is expected to mean that 250 million fewer carrier bags will be delivered to customers’ homes each year and nearly 2,000 tonnes of plastic will come out of production annually.

Tesco’s Quality Director, Sarah Bradbury said: “We’re looking for ways to reduce the amount of plastic we use. We know it’s an important issue for customers, colleagues and our business and we know we have to do more. Removing carrier bags from our online shopping is one of the many ways we are making changes to help customers reduce their use of plastic.”

Meanwhile, having started the week by revealing that it was trialling the removal of plastic bags for loose fruit and veg in its stores, Sainsbury’s claimed yesterday that it will be the first retailer to replace black plastic trays from chilled ready meals, with a recyclable alternative.

Launched in all stores nationwide this week across Sainsbury’s most popular ready meals, the retailer is replacing the black pigment material previously used for ready meal trays with natural CPET, a form of recyclable plastic. The new material, which is easily detectable at recycling plants, will be rolled out across all chilled ready meals by November this year.

The move is expected to cut over 1,000 metric tonnes of hard to recycle plastic each year.

Judith Batchelar, Director of Sainsbury’s brand, commented: “This is a fantastic development in sustainable packaging innovation and we’re proud to be introducing our new, fully recyclable ready meal trays this week. Our commitment to reducing our impact on the environment is ongoing and the announcement today is an addition to the wider steps we have taken as a business this year.”

And finally, Iceland has started trailing the removal of all plastic bags from one of its stores, replacing them altogether with paper alternatives.

The trial will run in its Hackney store, with customers being offered extra-strong paper bags for 15p.  Lighter weight paper carrier bags (10p), jute bags (£1), Disney branded cotton bags (£1), and small paper bags for meat products will also be available, providing a complete range of plastic-free options for customers.

At the same time, Iceland will also trial the 15p paper bags alongside plastic bags for life (15p) in North Wales, Wirral and Cheshire, covering 25 stores. This additional trial will be rolled out across a further 15 stores in the Manchester area from 10 August and will be used to monitor consumer preference in a setting where the two options are offered side by side.

Both trials will run for six months, with the findings to be analysed and used to inform the retailer’s long-term approach to replacing single use plastic carriers.

Last year, Iceland was the first retailer globally to commit to remove all plastic from its own label packaging by the end of 2023.

Commenting on its latest initiative, Richard Walker, Managing Director at Iceland, said: “We know that many customers are using ‘bags for life’ only once and the retail industry needs to work together to challenge this behaviour and find alternative solutions. Over 1.2 billion plastic bags for life were sold last year in the UK and this needs to change drastically.

“These trials will help us to understand how our customers feel about removing one of the most common objects associated with plastic, the supermarket carrier bag, and how they respond to various alternatives. We’re looking forward to seeing how customers respond and using the results of the trials in our wider plans to reduce our plastic footprint.”


Tesco, Sainsbury’s And Iceland Announce Latest Plastic Reduction Initiatives