• Iceland Foods will be the first UK supermarket to become plastic neutral – offsetting its remaining plastic footprint by recovering and recycling environmental and nature-bound waste plastic, the equivalent of its total plastic consumption from 2022, as it continues to work towards being plastic-free across its own label packaging.
  • The environmental and nature-bound plastic will be recovered and recycled by Seven Clean Seas, an independent partner certified with fully transparent standards and reporting.
  • This is a radical, supplementary strategy in response to the UN Global Assessment of Marine Litter and Plastic Pollution[1] which shows plastic pollution is locked in, out of control and an immediate major threat ecologically, to our climate and to human health.
  • At the same time, Managing Director Richard Walker calls for an internationally standardised system of accounting and crediting, to ensure the future integrity of nature-bound plastic recovery and offsetting, in order to drive scale in the nascent market 

Iceland Foods today announces its commitment to become the first UK supermarket to offset its entire remaining plastic footprint. The industry-leading move means recovering and recycling environmental and nature-bound waste plastic equal in weight to the supermarket’s residual plastic footprint. Iceland remains committed to eliminating its own-label plastic consumption entirely, as per the waste hierarchy of ‘reduction first’.

Iceland will partner with Seven Clean Seas who are designing a bespoke, multi-project, global programme for the supermarket to achieve plastic neutral status by funding and establishing the recovery and, where possible, recycling of environmental and nature-bound mixed waste plastic. This will take place via community and municipal collections and environmental interception The projects will focus on developing countries with the highest waste leakage, in order to create exponential impact.

Iceland Managing Director Richard Walker is calling for a standardised system and certification for nature-bound plastic recovery and offsetting that ensures the integrity of the approach and allows more businesses to react immediately to the UNEP assessment, which provides the strongest scientific argument to date for the urgency of acting, and for collective action to protect and restore our oceans.

Iceland remains committed to being plastic-free across its own label packaging and the retailer has continued to deliver a leading innovation programme of over 100 reduced plastic and plastic-free pilots in its stores – developing, testing and innovating to introduce alternatives to plastic. As a result, Iceland continues to make progress towards its goal, reporting a 29% overall reduction in plastic packaging across its own label range since its base year of 2017[2]. To date 3,794 tonnes of plastic have now been removed completely.

Richard Walker, Managing Director of Iceland, said:

“The UN Global Assessment of Marine Litter and Plastic Pollution is stark –plastic pollution is out of control and a major threat ecologically, to our climate and to human health. We are committed on our journey to become plastic-free across our own label range, but we need to do more than that and we need to do it immediately.

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. 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.

Between 1950 and 2017 the world produced 9.2 billion tonnes of plastic, of which 7 billion tonnes have become plastic waste. To address this huge global challenge, we are asking every Iceland supplier to join our initiative in order to magnify the scale impact that we can achieve.

At the same time, we want to see a standardised international system of accounting and crediting to ensure the future integrity of nature-bound plastic recovery and offsetting. We recognise its value as part of a robust business plan to reduce plastic, and the great work undertaken by the Science Based Targets initiative (SBTi)[3] across carbon shows what can be achieved by the creation of standardised independently verifiable frameworks.

Three years on, our pledge to become plastic-free across our own range remains ambitious. Plastic use and waste has increased through the pandemic and we are just one business challenging the $580 billion global plastic industry. However, we are privately owned and can be agile, so we have decided to invest our own money to become permanently plastic neutral as we progress to becoming plastic-free.

Whilst we may not achieve our target by the end of 2023, due to setbacks caused by the pandemic 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.”

Thomas Peacock-Nazil, Chief Executive and Founder of ocean cleanup organisation Seven Clean Seas said: “Our partnership with Iceland comes at a pivotal time for ocean pollution and the action they are taking reflects the urgency of the situation. This investment is transformational – it will enable us to generate enormous environmental and social impact whilst protecting our oceans, the Earth’s most important ecosystem from plastic pollution. We are hopeful that it will prompt other retail brands to minimise their plastic footprints and take a more conscientious approach to managing their plastic consumption.”

Hugo Tagholm, Chief Executive and Founder of marine conservation charity Surfers Against Sewage said: “It is crucial that businesses play their part in turning the tide against plastic, adopting progressive measures to reduce their plastic footprint. Eliminating plastics is of course the ultimate goal, however other additional measures to contain, collect and recycle plastics are also currently vital. Beach cleaners will be the first to tell you this. As Iceland continues in its journey to reduce and ultimately remove plastic from own label ranges, its investment in plastic neutrality will go some way in ridding our oceans of the plastic which has become so prolific in our daily lives.”

Iceland continues to be completely transparent about its plastics packaging consumption – in 2019 it was the first UK retailer to publish its total plastic packaging footprint, and continues to do this each year.

[1]  From Pollution to Solution: A global assessment of marine litter and plastic pollution. Published by the United Nations Environmental Programme (UNEP) published on October 21, 2021.

[2] Iceland Annual Plastic Report 2019

[3] The Science Based Targets initiative (SBTi) drives climate action in the private sector by enabling companies to set science-based emissions reduction targets. https://sciencebasedtargets.org/

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