LONDON (Reuters) - Iceland Foods plans to be the first British supermarket group to become plastic neutral, offsetting its remaining plastic footprint by recovering and recycling waste plastic, it said on Thursday.
Supermarket groups have been responding to growing consumer demands for less waste, less plastic and more action on the environment. Those demands are likely to be fuelled by this week's COP26 U.N. climate conference in Scotland.
Privately owned Iceland, which operates 1,000 UK stores, said waste plastic equal in weight to the firm's residual plastic footprint will be recovered and, where possible, recycled by independent partner Seven Clean Seas.
The recovery projects will focus on developing countries with the highest plastic waste.
"We all know that, in the long term, the industry cannot recycle or offset its way out of the plastic crisis and, while we remain firmly fixed on plastic reduction, this is another important milestone in our journey to becoming plastic-free," said Iceland Managing Director Richard Walker.
"I would ask our other supermarkets to urgently consider becoming plastic neutral as they too look to turn down the tap on plastic production altogether."
Market leader Tesco has removed a billion pieces of plastic from its operations and is targeting the removal of a further half a billion. No. 2 player Sainsbury's has committed to halving its use of plastic packaging by 2025 and then go further.
Three years ago Iceland set a target to eliminate plastic packaging from all of its own brand products, over 1,000 lines, by the end of 2023.
Walker said on Thursday the group may not achieve the 2023 target due to setbacks caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, when plastic use increased, and lack of commercially viable innovation.
"We remain focused on our target and will not stop until we have delivered what we set out to," he added.
(Reporting by James Davey; Editing by Kirsten Donovan)