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  • Susan

Nearly half of all plastic waste generated in the UK each year is from packaging

Big brands need to do more.

Online shopping accounted for 20% of all retail sales in the UK in January last year, but as millions turned to it for everything from the most basic items to luxury purchases, the number has almost doubled in 2021 to 36%. This means that packaging waste has drastically increased, with nearly half of all plastic waste generated in the UK each year from packaging.

Collecting recent data and insights, Packaging Online, a sustainable packaging supplier, have uncovered which top UK brands are the biggest plastic waste offenders in the country.

There is huge differentiation between the percentage of unrecyclable packaging between brands from Waitrose with 30% to John Lewis with 0.3% of packaging being unrecyclable.

Consumer interest in sustainability and sustainable packing options has begun to put the pressure on retail brands, but they have still not developed fully recyclable packaging. Whilst cost and logistics are barriers to this, it mainly stems from lack of understanding and bureaucratic decision making processes.

Food retailers seem to have much higher levels of unrecyclable packaging than fashion and household goods retailers. Nevertheless, even within sectors, there are high levels of differentiation, for example Sainsbury’s (9%) to Waitrose (30%) which shows shocking levels of disparity. The cumulative packaging waste between big brands is also demoralising with the 10 worst companies for packaging waste (including Coca-Cola, Pepsico and Nestle) contributing over 7.8 million metric tonnes of unrecyclable packaging waste per year.

As a result of the e-commerce boom, Amazon now produces enough online shopping packaging waste to circle the earth 667 times

This statistic shows the effect that the massive growth in e-commerce has had. With only 80% of cardboard packaging being recycled, a staggering amount has gone into waste. Amazon is particularly poor due to its use of plastic film which is not accepted by most packaging recycling programmes as well as incredible sales records meaning that the company is now producing nearly 30 million pounds (13,608 metric tonnes) of unrecycled plastic waste.

‘One of the key pillars of Packaging Online’s mission statement is to achieve 100% sustainability by 2025. Switching to using water based inks, eco friendly tape and 100% recyclable boxes are ways we will make our goal of 100% sustainable packaging attainable. As it stands, more than 95% of our packaging is recyclable and we are on track to get this to 100% by the 2025 deadline. In doing so, we hope to eliminate any negative impact we might have upon the environment and we hope to set an example that packaging can be done in an ethical, eco-friendly way,’ said Tom Wood, general manager, Packaging Online.


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