Friday the 13th is not normally considered an auspicious date by superstitious types, but today brings the decidedly optimistic and welcome announcement that Sainsbury’s – the UK’s second largest supermarket chain – has pledged to slash it’s use of plastic packaging by 50% by 2025.

The company’s chief executive, Mike Coupe, said eliminating packaging was not easy because the material kept food safe and fresh but acknowledged that the company “urgently needed to reduce its impact on the planet … we must therefore find alternatives to plastic that protect the quality of our food while minimising our impact on the natural world.”

Sainsbury’s currently uses nearly 120,000 tonnes of plastic packaging each year and say the push on plastic would mean using alternative materials such as glass, lighter-weight plastics, and the introduction of “refillable packaging at scale”, adding that the biggest problems were milk cartons, packaging on fruit and vegetables, and containers for fizzy drinks, water and fruit juice.

Meanwhile, Britain’s biggest supermarket chain Tesco said it was considering banning brands that used excessive packaging from its stores. Dave Lewis, Tesco’s chief executive, said the company would “reserve the right not to list” products with too much non-recyclable packaging from next year onwards.

Sainsbury’s admit it will not be able to hit the target without help from the wider industry and the general public. It is looking to collaborate with food manufacturers, packaging firms, academics and even its rivals. It has also created an area on its website for customers, colleagues and anyone else to submit ideas to help reduce single use plastic packaging:

Sainsbury’s say they will provide twice yearly updates on the progress it is making; it will be interesting to see how they manage it, and how many other retailers will follow in their footsteps.

This article and featured image is adapted from a story by Zoe Wood in The Guardian, published 13th September 2019 and available at