Sainsbury’s to Halve Plastic Packaging by 2025

Uk grocer Sainsbury’s is announcing an ambitious new commitment to reduce plastic packaging by 50% by 2025.

This new target includes all branded food packaging, Sainsbury’s private brand food packaging and packaging across all of Sainsbury’s operations. Sainsbury’s currently uses almost 120,000 tons of plastic packaging per year and believes a transformational leap in thinking is required to move the industry beyond existing efforts at reducing packaging. Sainsbury’s reduced plastic packaging by 1% in 2018.

To meet this goal, Sainsbury’s will launch a program to accelerate change, which will include switching to alternative materials, using lighter-weight plastics and introducing refillable packaging at scale. Following rigorous analysis of its plastic footprint, the key areas of focus for the biggest impact are plastic milk bottles, packaging for fruit and vegetables, fizzy drinks, water and fruit juices.

Some of these alternatives will require customers to change their behavior – for example, plastic milk bottles are currently one of largest sources of plastic packaging. Sainsbury’s is reviewing alternative options including the introduction of refillable bottles, introducing returnable milk bottles or offering a reusable jug with milk in a lightweight plastic pouch.

Sainsbury’s recognizes it cannot achieve this commitment on its own. To achieve its ambition, Sainsbury’s will pioneer new ways to collaborate with food manufacturers, packaging suppliers, raw material scientists, and other retailers, alongside the waste and recycling industry. To kickstart this collaboration, Sainsbury’s is co-hosting a summit with the Natural Environment Research Council (NERC), part of UK Research and Innovation (UKRI), today Friday 13th September, which will bring together branded suppliers, researchers, and government stakeholders to identify potential breakthrough innovation projects.

Sainsbury’s is also looking to open source ideas. The retailer now has an area on its website for customers, colleagues, manufacturers, entrepreneurs, and other interested parties to submit ideas to help reduce plastic packaging:

Sainsbury’s will work with Greenpeace on this commitment and will report publicly on progress every six months.

Mike Coupe, Chief Executive of Sainsbury’s, said: “We have set ourselves a bold ambition because we understand that we urgently need to reduce our impact on the planet and to help drive change across our industry.

“Reducing plastic and packaging is not easy. Packaging plays a vital role in keeping our food safe and fresh and minimizing food waste. We must, therefore, find alternatives to plastic that protect the quality of our food while minimizing our impact on the environment.

“We can’t do this on our own and we will be asking our suppliers and our customers to work with us to help us make this important change.”

Theresa Villiers, Environment Secretary, said: “I commend the leadership shown by Sainsbury’s and their efforts to introduce new industry-wide standards and reporting, ensuring that our environment is protected for future generations.

“This is a brilliant example of the integral role business has to play in cutting plastic waste, empowering consumers to make more sustainable choices.”

After the summit, Sainsbury’s will continue to work with suppliers and other partners to develop and implement innovative solutions to the plastics challenge, including through collaborative project bids within the Government’s new £60m Smart Sustainable Plastic Packaging challenge program:’s existing plastic reduction commitments:

  • Lightweight loose produce bags will be removed by September 2019 (489 tons)
  • Plastic trays are being removed from asparagus and sweetcorn (144 tons); cream pots (114 tons); tomatoes (102 tons); carrots (38 tons); and herb pots (18 tons)
  • Plastic has already been removed from cauliflowers, organic bananas, easy peeler citrus fruit, brassicas, and tomatoes
  • Microbeads were removed from our Own Brand products in 2013


  • Fresh food black plastic trays will be replaced with recyclable alternatives (6000 tons) by end of this year
  • PVC and polystyrene trays will be replaced with recyclable alternatives (1213 tons)
  • Plastic film on fruit and vegetables will be replaced with a recyclable alternative (2518 tons) by end 2020
  • All our Own Brand flushable wipes are plastic free and compliant with industry guidelines which are recognised across the UK and Europe. We’re also working to meet the new ‘Fine to Flush’ standard in the future while ensuring we do not compromise the quality of the product.
  • Plastic cutlery was replaced with wooden cutlery in Food to Go, saving 38 tons of plastic.


  • Fresh water stands will be available for customers to refill their own water bottles in 326 supermarket cafe’s across the country
  • Customers are encouraged to bring their own containers to meat and deli counters


  • A ‘pre-cycle’ area will be trialed in stores for customers to remove unwanted packaging and leave it for recycling
  • Customers will be able to use recycling facilities at further 125 stores (currently 275).
  • Collaboration with others on research to develop new packaging and recycling technologies
  • Deposit Return Schemes are being piloted so customers can return recyclable packaging simply and easily

This month Sainsbury’s will remove single-use plastic bags from bakery aisles and single-use plastic bags from loose produce – removing a total of 489 tonnes of plastic.

Sainsbury’s has previously committed to making all plastic packaging recyclable, reusable or compostable by 2023.

In 2005, Sainsbury’s signed up to the Courtauld Commitment, a voluntary government target to reduce packaging in the grocery sector. This agreement focused on reducing the weight of packaging and resulted in retailers reducing glass and fibreboard packaging in favor of lighter weight and more versatile plastic packaging.

Previous articleWegmans Goes Veggie with Cauliflower Crust Pizzas
Next articleDon’t Miss IKEA’s Transformation Journey at Velocity Europe
Christopher Durham is the president of My Private Brand and the co-founder of The Vertex Awards. He is a strategist, author, consultant and retailer who built brands at Delhaize-owned Food Lion, and lead strategy and brand development for Lowe’s Home Improvement. He has consulted with retailers around the world on their private brand portfolios including: Family Dollar, Petco, Staples, Office Depot, Best Buy, Metro (Canada), TLW (Taiwan) and Hola (Taiwan). Durham has published five definitive books on private brands, including his first book, Fifty2: The My Private Brand Project. In 2017, he will debut his newest book, Vanguard: Vintage Originals, a visual tour of innovation and disruption in private brand going back to the mid-1800’s. Dynamic in his presentation while down to earth and frank in his opinions, he has presented at numerous conferences, including FUSE, The Dieline Conference, Packaging that Sells, Omnishopper and PLMA’a annual trade show in Chicago. Durham lives in Charlotte, NC with his wife, Laraine, and two daughters, Olivia and Sarah.