Asda's George clothing label to only use polyester from recycled materials by 2025, as Tesco launches plastic-free veg trial and Pret rolls our water refill points
The race to remove single-use plastic from supermarket aisles and High Street stores continues apace, with Asda, Tesco, and Pret A Manger the latest household names to unveil a wave of waste and recycling initiatives this morning.
Asda's fashion and homeware brand, George, will for the first time sell products made from recycled plastic bottles and clothing, as part of a raft of new sustainability commitments, the company confirmed today.
George products initially set for launch in its upcoming Spring/Summer 2019 range include cushions and throw made from recycled plastic bottles, the retailer said, as well as blouses and dresses made with fabric from recycled polyester clothing.
Forming part of its new sustainability strategy, George has committed to sourcing only certified sustainable viscose and sustainable cotton and only using polyester that is sourced from recycled materials by 2025. It also said it will extend its work looking at microfibre shedding, with a view to publishing a full microfibre strategy later this year.
Asda was the first major supermarket to sign up to the Microfibre Consortium last year, through which it said it is performing tests to understand the extent of shedding of materials from fabrics, which are increasingly being identified as a major source of ocean pollution that can then get into food chains.
George product packaging will also only use recycled materials by 2025, and the retailer added it would "guarantee certified zero discharge of hazardous chemicals or waste from any of the fabric factories in our supply chain by that same date".
Meanwhile, in a bid to boost customer awareness about the environmental impact of its clothing, Asda said it would be increasing the visibility of garment care and advice on how consumers can repurpose, reuse, or recycle old clothing.
The retailer stressed it had a "zero-tolerance" policy towards incineration and that it donates garments that cannot be sold to charitable organisations to be repurposed.
And, as part of a supply chain transparency drive, the supermarket also plans to start publishing on its website a list of its second tier apparel factories - those typically dyeing, printing and finishing garments - joining its list of first tier factories where George clothing is cut, sewn, and trimmed.
Nick Jones, Asda's senior vice president for commercial, said the aim was to recycle, repurpose or reuse as much material as possible.
"As the second largest clothing retailer in the country, we have a responsibility to do the right thing by our customers, not only on the price and quality of our goods, but also on the impact we have on the world around us," he said. "We don't believe there should be a trade-off between value and values, but recognise that we can, through our scale, provide products that are both a low cost to the customer and have a lower cost to the environment."
The move came as rival supermarket chain Tesco announced a new trial today that will see it remove plastic wrapping from "an extensive selection" of its fruit and vegetables at two of its stores "wherever a loose alternative exists".
A total of 40 packaged goods will be taken out of its Watford and Swindon supermarkets, it said, where customers will see varieties of apples, mushrooms, peppers, onions, bananas, and avocados free from packaging.
The pilot forms part of Tesco's commitments to reduce the amount of packaging in its stores and ensure any remaining plastic has a "clear purpose and is recyclable".
Tesco's director of quality, Sarah Bradbury, said the firm would be studying shoppers' reaction to the trials at the two stores, as well as monitoring each of the products to see if the removal of packaging results in an increase in food waste. "We want to remove as much plastic as we can from our products, only using what is necessary to protect and preserve our food," she said.
And in further consumer packaging news, food chain Pret A Manger today announced plans to ramp up the rollout of filtered water points to its UK shops in a bid to help customers reduce the number of plastic bottles they use.
As a result, 250 Pret stores across the country - 64 per cent of the total - now have free filtered water available via water fountains on the shop floor, available to any member of the public regardless of whether they make a purchase, said the firm's director of strategy and sustainability, Laura Gutowski.
"Although we already offered drinking water on request at all of our shops, we know that behaviour is most likely to change if we can enable people to fill up themselves, rather than having to ask a team member at the counter," she said.
It follows calls on Friday from Lord Malcolm Bruce, the new chair of UK non-profit Water Unite, for chief executives of 80 of the most influential global grocery retailers to unite in the fight against plastic pollution and water poverty.
The organisation is asking for a voluntary levy of one per cent on global bottled water sales, which it said could raise up to $5bn a year for combatting plastic pollution and providing clean water across Africa and South Asia.
"As chair of Water Unite, my first order is business is bringing together leading grocery retailers, so they can play their part in this global challenge," said Lord Bruce.
In the UK, the government has said it wants to phase-out avoidable plastic waste by 2042, but a coalition of 19 leading green groups on Friday called for the ban to be brought forward to 2025 in order to help slash the "toxic plastic soup ending up in our oceans, rivers and countryside".
Setting the phase out date at 2025 could save more than 4,000 billion pieces of single use plastic waste being consumed in the UK between 2026 and 2042, said the group, which includes Friends of the Earth, the Marine Conservation Society, and the Environmental Investigation Agency.
The policy call came in a report released by the Wildlife and Countryside Link coalition, which also includes ClientEarth, WWF, and the Wildlife Trusts.
Dr Sue Kinsey, senior pollution policy officer at the Marine Conservation Society, said there was an urgent need to phase out the throwaway plastic produced and consumed in the UK. "This is essential to create a genuine circular economy system in the UK where ‘waste' is valued as a resource and used time and time again rather than polluting our countryside, coasts and seas."
For its part, the government has announced a range of measures and consultations in recent months to tackle plastic pollution, including proposals to curb waste from straws, bottles, and microplastics, as the government seeks to develop a wide-ranging policy framework to boost recycling rates. Last month the government launched a series of consultations on the proposed introduction of new plastic taxes and increased costs for packaging producers to help fund recycling infrastructure.
A Defra spokesperson said: "We are making great strides including a world-leading ban on plastic microbeads in rinse-off personal care products, taking over 15 billion plastic bags out of circulation with our 5p carrier bag charge, and have plans to extend the charge to all retailers. But we know there is more to do. That's why we are consulting on a deposit return scheme for drinks containers, as well as a world-leading new tax on plastic packaging."
With a raft of policy interventions on tackling plastic waste potentially in the offing in the wake of the government's myriad consultations and proposals, more retailers are evidently recognising the need to stay several steps ahead by ramping up actions to cut unnecessary plastics from their business as swiftly as possible.
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