The best and worst supermarkets for plastic packaging

As more and more of us join in the fight against plastic pollution, there is increasing pressure on supermarkets to reassess their packaging practices, reducing unnecessary wrapping and containers, and eliminating those made with non-recyclable materials.

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New research from Which? compared own-brand products from the top UK supermarket chains – and found that overall, nearly a third (29%) of packaging is non-recyclable.

However, there is a huge variation between supermarket brands in how eco-friendly their packaging is. Family-owned Morrisons comes out on top, with 81% of the packaging on their own-brand products being widely-recyclable (i.e. recycled by most councils), and an additional 7% of packaging recyclable at their in-store recycling points.

Iceland and Lidl meanwhile have the lowest percentage of widely-recyclable packaging.

Here’s the full Which? ranking:

Source: Which

Although the percentages of non-recyclable plastic might seem low – it really does add up. According to the Which? report, experts estimate that British supermarkets alone create 800,000 tonnes of plastic every year. Tto put that into context a small car weighs one tonne.

The report also criticised supermarkets for using unclear and inconsistent labelling, so shoppers aren’t clear what can and can’t be recycled. Anyone else tried – and failed – to decipher those mystery symbols? (If you want a definitive guide – Recycle Now has a useful explanation of each symbol, which might be worth keeping to hand by your kitchen’s recycle bin).

Nearly all of the major supermarket brands – alongside food manufacturers – have signed the UK Plastics Pact, which commits them to meeting a series of environmental targets by 2025. These include eliminating unnecessary single-use plastic packaging, with 100% of plastic packaging to be reusable, recyclable or compostable.

Many supermarket bosses have pledged to meet or exceed these targets sooner, and develop even more sophisticated packaging innovations – but the proof is in the (eco-friendly packaged) pudding.

Read the full Which? report here.