By: Joint Justice and Peace Group of St Andrew's & St Joseph's
Bearsden and Milngave, East Dunbartonshire, Contact: J. Desmond, firstname.lastname@example.org
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Thanks to shocking footage that shows turtles suffocating in plastic and elephants foraging on plastic-strewn dumps, most consumers are now acutely aware of the hugely damaging impact of plastic pollution on the health and wellbeing of animals and humans. Ever sensitive to consumer concern major UK food retailers now widely publicize their commitment to reduce Single Use Plastic (SUP) and to replace this with recyclable and compostable alternatives. To check these claims our joint Justice and Peace Group decided to conduct a survey of SUP use in fruit, salad and vegetable lines by major food retailers in East Dunbartonshire.
Our sample included Asda, Aldi, Co-op, Lidl, Marks & Spencer, Morrisons, Sainsbury, Tesco and Waitrose. While we found some areas of good practice our overall finding was frankly very disappointing, with high to extremely high use of SUP prevalent across the board. There were also anomalies, for instance, most retailers sell some bananas loose, yet cover others and especially Fairtrade bananas in SUP, which is a strange practice, given that Fairtrade consumers buy on ethical grounds. A majority of carrots, broccoli and celery continues to be shrouded in SUP. While retailers claim this is for protection, they do not explain why these products are also offered loose. Our report found additionally that SUP use can vary from week to week, so that for instance one week all the broccoli on sale in an outlet can be covered in SUP while the next week half of it is not.
Overall, in light of the extensive publicity from food retailers about their reduction of plastic packaging, we were disappointed to find that a high to very high proportion of the fruit, salad and vegetable items we surveyed were still swathed in SUP. We have since asked these prominent retailers to step up their efforts by demonstrating significant reductions in SUP use by the time of our next survey this coming September. As recycling and compostable alternatives are not a sustainable solution we ask that they aim for an overall reduction in the use of plastic packaging.
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