Nabco Retail Shelving Systems


How Small Retailers Can Reduce Their Plastic Usage

Ryan Willis

The impact of plastic on the environment has never been as big an issue as it is today, and rightfully so. From oceans and beaches to local waterways and green spaces, we’re increasingly living in a world that’s littered with plastic.

People started thinking seriously about how to reduce plastic use after the issue was brought to the attention of the masses by the BBC series Blue Planet II. That led Theresa May to pledge to eliminate all avoidable plastic within 25 years. With 6.3 billion tonnes of plastic waste generated globally by 2015 and almost 80% of it now in landfill or the natural environment, things had to change.

The government has also recently announced plans to extend the plastic bag charge to all retailers and increase the minimum charge to 10p. However, that’s not the only change retailers will have to get used to, with supermarkets asked to introduce ‘plastic-free aisles’ where fruit and vegetables will be sold loose.

What are major retailers doing to reduce plastic pollution?

In response to consumers’ growing awareness of the damage being caused by plastic, many of the leading food retailers have implemented a number of ways to reduce plastic use. That includes:

  • Iceland – To its credit, the frozen food retailer is at the vanguard of the movement to reduce plastic use. It aims to replace all of its plastic containers with paper or pulp over the next five years. All of these materials will be recyclable and many will contain recycled material.
  • Tesco – The supermarket giant has vowed to make all of its packaging fully recyclable by 2025. It has already removed polystyrene from fish packaging and replaced it with more environmentally-friendly plastic.
  • Marks & Spencer – Over 90% of all M&S packaging is already recyclable in the UK. The company is also looking at improving the recycling of the black plastic containers many ready meals come in. The colour means the sorting equipment cannot detect them, so they end up in landfill anyway.
  • Sainsbury’s – Sainsbury’s has set a target to reduce its plastic packaging by half by 2020. It has also committed to removing all plastic cotton buds, which are a major source of plastic pollution.  

How to reduce plastic usage in retail

While large retailers are starting to think seriously about ways to reduce plastic use, many small businesses are several steps ahead of them. Here are a few simple ways to reduce plastic usage in your own business:

  • Use plastic-free toiletries – Whether you run a shop, small café or hospitality business, if you have a toilet on site, consider using refillable soap dispensers rather than small, disposable plastic ones. You can also use toilet roll made from 100% recycled paper.
  • Switch to refillable pens – Yes, this may be a slightly obscure tip, but switching to refillable pens or pencils rather than using plastic throwaway pens is another effective way to reduce plastic use.
  • Introduce paper bagsRather than contributing to the 3.4 billion single-use plastic bags supplied by SMEs annually, why not introduce your own range of paper bags and boost the eco credentials of your store?
  • Champion multi-use cups – If you have a café on site, introducing multi-use cups and glasses can make a big difference to the plastic waste you create over the course of a year. 
  • Think carefully about sandwich containers, wrappings and takeaway cartons – If you run a deli or food retail store, think carefully about the containers you sell your food in. There are a number of completely biodegradable sandwich boxes, salad trays and takeaway cartons out there that provide an eco-friendly alternative to plastic.

What are you doing to reduce plastic use in your shop? Please share your tips with us via Twitter, Facebook, or get in touch using our contact form.

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