Let’s make Plastic Free Supermarket Aisles Happen in the U.K.

ekoplazaDid you hear? Today in Amsterdam a plastic free supermarket aisle is opening. It’s going to stock 700 plastic free products. And it opens today at 11am.

And this is the first of many. Ekoplaza, the Dutch supermarket company, has, according to A Plastic Planet, over 80 stores with plans to showcase a plastic free aisle in all of them (A Plastic Planet, nd). And it’s happening just, like, that.

But maybe it’s not just, like, that. In a report by Taylor in the Guardian published today, Ekoplaza’s chief executive, Erik Does, says “We know that our customers are sick to death of products laden in layer after layer of thick plastic packaging.” (Taylor, 2018). So… how does he know?

A lot of campaigning seems to have been going on. It has been led by a main lobby group –  Plastic Planet (Taylor, 2018). So what does this tell us?

Group campaigning works.

Since the Attenborough effect I have felt very little need to blog. Not because I no longer care or try and live without plastic but because it has felt like the mantel has been taken up and shared on such a great stage, a small blog isn’t needed as much. And I think that’s a great thing! I see more and more people engaging in this cause. But today I decided to write something because I am worried that we’re missing a trick.

For those of you who aren’t aware I am a Christian and a student Minister in training for the Moravian Church. My faith does have an impact on my lifestyle, including my understanding of the need to care for creation and thus my plastic free approach. But it’s not only my faith that convinced me of this, it was hours of research and investigation. It was as I unearthed facts that were there for anyone to find. Facts that show how slowly plastic decomposes (or how often actually all it does is become microplastics). It was as I learned, ahead of Attenborough, all about the effects of plastic in and on our oceans that I became more convinced plastic had to go.

An exciting development for me is that one of my churches I am on placement at (independently of me, I hasten to add) have started to work with their local Co-operative supermarket to try and reduce the amount of single-use plastic. It’s great to see initiatives like this becoming more mainstream. It’s great to see more and more people giving up parts of their plastic-dependant lifestyle – friends as well as friends of friends. It’s exciting.

What worries me, though, is that so far Britain doesn’t seem to have a plastic free aisle in a supermarket. Despite Attenborough. Despite Theresa May and forty odd other conservatives giving up single-use plastic for lent. Despite Theresa May apparently proposing a plastic free aisle (Walker, P. 2018) .

Indeed, despite more and more people saying they have given up plastic or at least single use plastic. After all they hype, the best we have here in the U.K. is Iceland promising to go plastic free on it’s own branded products by the end of 2023 (Hinde, 2018). No one has taken up this opportunity to try and begin a half-way modelling of behaviour. A plastic free aisle is pretty manageable if you think about it.

This worries me because not everyone can afford to go and shop locally in parts of England (I don’t want to assume but am guessing it’s true of Wales, Scotland and Norther Ireland too). This is particularly hard in some places where local now also means organic (with a larger price tag that comes with it!). For some people such stores aren’t even nearby, whereas most people can buy something at or through a supermarket. A plastic free aisle begins to offer a lifestyle change for the millions not the hundreds or thousands.

Richard Walker, Iceland’s managing director, has even said that the “onus is on retailers, as leading contributors to plastic packaging pollution and waste, to take a stand and deliver meaningful change” (Hinde, 2018).

I think we need to remind them. According to a poll by Populus* in summer 2017 of 2,000 British adults surveyed, 9 out of 10 people want supermarkets to introduce a “plastic-free aisle”(Johnston, 2017) . So, if so many of us want it where is it?

Collectively we need to ask them to make a change they can do in 2018 not in 2023 or for the rest of the supermarkets who knows when….

So how could you do that:

Well – get a group together and ask for it at your local supermarket (starting small but with group power and this is a more personalised approach). It’s a chance to connect with your community too.

Signing a petition such as this that asks for plastic free supermarkets:

Change. Org –  https://www.change.org/p/all-ceos-of-the-uk-supermarkets-we-want-a-plastic-free-aisle-in-our-supermarkets

Alternatively you could…

Get a group of friends/ community group together and get a petition going to your local MP or councillor asking for them to help you develop a plastic free aisles as feasible! In theory it’s what our prime minister wants after all!

Together, let’s make this happen 🙂

Extras

* for those who don’t know Populus is a market research company in the U.K. who gather data through cold calling

References

A Plastic Planet (n.d.) Our Single Goal Accessed on 28/02/2018 from http://aplasticplanet.com/a-plastic-free-aisle.php

Johnston, I (2017) Nine out of 10 people call for ‘plastic-free aisle’ in supermarkets, finds survey in The Inderpendent Online Accessed on 28/02/2018 from at: http://www.independent.co.uk/environment/plastic-free-aisle-supermarkets-products-packages-survey-groceries-nine-ten-people-uk-a7859066.html

Hinde, N. (2018) World’s First Plastic-Free Aisle Arrives In Amsterdam Supermarket Huffing Post, Accessed on 28/02/2018 from: http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/entry/plastic-free-aisle-supermarket-amsterdam_uk_5a953989e4b02cb368c58cb1

Taylor, M. (2018) World’s first plastic-free aisle opens in Netherlands supermarket The Guardian Online Accessed  28/02/2018 from  https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2018/feb/28/worlds-first-plastic-free-aisle-opens-in-netherlands-

Walker, P. (2018) Thereasa May proposes plastic-free supermarket aisles in green strategy The Guardian Online Accessed on 28/02/2018 from https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2018/jan/10/theresa-may-proposes-plastic-free-supermarket-aisles-in-green-strategy

Image from A Plastic Planet (n.d.) Accessed on 28/02/2018 from:  http://aplasticplanet.com/a-plastic-free-aisle.php

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