Plastic packaging – which supermarkets are becoming zero waste?

Supermarket chains are making loud pledges to go zero waste and reduce plastic packaging, but which ones are actually doing something about it right now?

Plastic packaging
(Image credit: Getty)

Countless consumer surveys have proved that we want less plastic packaging when shopping at the supermarket. In fact, ideally, we don't want plastic at all, although it no doubt be a good while before all single-use plastic is gone for good from our shopping baskets. 

Aware of the shift in consumer mood towards reducing plastic waste, most UK supermarket chains have been making ambitious pledges to drastically reduce their plastic use. Last year, Sainsbury's made a bold commitment to halve its plastic use by 2025, while Aldi has set an even more impressive target of making all of its packaging 100 per cent recyclable, compostable, or reusable – which doesn't necessarily mean plastic-free, mind.

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Targets and plans aside, however, if you're doing a supermarket shop today, you're probably wondering which of the supermarket chains will deliver the least plastic-heavy shopping load? 

The short answer is: find a Morrisons or Waitrose if you can. Both of these supermarket chains have scored highly in the recent report on supermarket chains' plastic use by Greenpeace, Morrisons coming top for its overall effort to genuinely reduce the amount of plastic packaging now, not in five years' time. This supermarket was found to be selling the most unpackaged fruit and veg and to allow people to come with their own containers to shop for over-the-counter fish and meat.

Waitrose are also allowing people to use their own containers for buying meat and fish at its deli counters – and they have banned black plastic packaging from their own-brand products. Waitrose aren't as good at removing packaging from their fruit and veg as Morrisons, but they produce fewer tonnes of plastic per year to begin with. 

Both Waitrose and Morrisons have been trialling refill stations in their stores, with Waitrose rolling out the refills in three more shops after the success of their Oxford store initiative.

Shop online? Waitrose are offering bagless delivery (not yet Morrisons), although Tesco are piloting a scheme that will allow customers to return reusable packaging that will be washed and reused. Be careful shopping in-store at Tesco, though – its single-use plastic packaging footprint in tonnes is the largest at over 250,000 tonnes a year.