We all know that plastic pollution is a global problem requiring drastic action. Last month's BBC One documentary Drowning in Plastic, which explored the environmental damage caused by single-use plastic bags, straws, food packaging, wet wipes and more, was so distressing it brought some viewers to tears.
So it's vitally important that we inform ourselves as much as possible about how we as individuals are contributing to the plastic pollution epidemic. Since the vast majority of us do our food shopping in supermarkets, it's helpful to know how effectively (if at all) these retailers are cracking down on their plastic footprints.
The report also ranks 10 of the UK's leading supermarket chains on their plastic policies using four yardsticks: their commitment to reducing single-use plastic, commitment to eliminating non-recyclable plastics, willingness to influence suppliers to reduce their plastic consumption, and transparency.
Iceland comes out on top with an overall score of 5.7 out of 10. The report states that the frozen food specialist "has shown the most ambition in committing to eliminate own brand single-use plastic packaging".
At the other end of the table, Sainsbury's places 10th with an overall score of just 3.2 out of 10. Tesco, the UK's largest supermarket chain, which has recently started paying some customers to return plastic bottles, places fifth.
Below, check out the full rankings with each chain's score out of 10.
1. Iceland (5.7)
2. Morrison (5.3)
3. Waitrose (4.7)
4. M&S (4.6)
5. Tesco (4.5)
6. Asda (4.3)
7. Co-op (4.2)
8. Aldi (4.1)
9. Lidl (4.1)
10. Sainsbury's (3.2)
The report recommends that supermarkets work towards "a significant increase" in their use of reusable packaging if they're to help consumers cut back on plastic consumption. In general, the report says, retailers currently "have a greater focus on recycling than [plastic] reduction".
Responding to the results, the EIA's Senior Ocean Campaigner Sarah Baulch said: "It is abundantly clear that we cannot simply recycle our way out of the plastic pollution crisis, and yet this remains the priority area of focus for many major chains. Retailers must pioneer new ways to reduce their plastic footprint across the entire supply chain."
Baulch adds: "Waste from the UK impacts wildlife and communities around the world and it’s high time that supermarkets move beyond incremental change and fundamentally rethink their relationship with single-use plastic packaging."
Though the report definitely features some positive news – for instance, three-quarters of respondents said they support the government's proposed plastic bottle deposit return scheme – it's hard not to feel our supermarkets could be doing more. After all, one Dutch grocery chain has already introduced plastic-free aisles into its stores. The aisle's 700 or so items are stored in glass, metal, cardboard, or biofilm, a plant-based material which can be composted.
How long will it take for a UK supermarket chain to follow suit?