Earlier this year you may have seen Iceland in the headlines as they work towards the very admirable task of removing the plastic packaging from all of its own-label products by 2023. I was lucky enough to meet Ian Schofield who is the brains behind the project and he very kindly agreed to an interview on his insight into the plastic mess (and solutions!) that the world currently seems to be in.
In case you haven’t seen the problems created by plastic, I highly recommend that you watch Blue Planet and A Plastic Ocean. It’s a really sad situation to be in but hopefully the vast amount of coverage that the detrimental effects of plastic has had, will kick start a wave of positive movement and change in not only our generation but for generations to come as well.
5 Tips to Reduce Single Plastic Use
To help with the aim of reducing our single plastic consumption I firstly spoke to Ian about the 5 things that I am personally trying to do on a daily basis:
- 1) Using re-usable tote bags instead of buying a 5p plastic bag.
I always keep a fold down reusable bag in my work bag just incase I go to the shops. I also keep large reusable shopping bags in my car incase I head for a larger shop and I always make sure to take them into the shop with me (I used to forget until it became a habit!). If I go clothes shopping I make sure to take with me a large canvas bag and only every accept bags from shops which are made from paper which are easier to recycle. You’re not only saving the environment with this tip but your money too!
Ian: By the end of this year plastic 5p bags will be not be around. You will have many variants of non-plastic, bags made from post consumer waste, jute etc. The key is to re-use all your bags many times. Ours [at Iceland] will move to a starch derivative.
- 2) Declining straws when out & use a reusable one when home.
I’ll admit that I always used to ask for a straw when out; however now I wouldn’t dream of it! Not asking for a straw, or telling the bar staff that you don’t want a straw with your drink is a simple thing that you can do to reduce your single plastic consumption. At home, you could try a reusable straw (and straw cleaner) which you can get from Amazon.
Ian: We have banned [straws] along with many other chains. There’s no reason to have them.
- 3) Using a keep cup in coffee shops instead of a disposable coffee cup.
A keep cup is the latest addition to my kitchen and I absolutely love it. I take it with me to work or the shops incase I want a hot drink and to make it even better, most coffee shops offer either a discount towards your hot beverage or an extra stamp towards getting a free one!
Ian: We don’t have disposable cups at our 750 people head office and we have our own Costa on site. Saving 1000 tonnes of material. It’s easy to do and you can carry it in the car when you are on the move.
- 4) Use a re-usable water bottle (as opposed to buying water in plastic bottles when out) or use a glass.
If you like to drink water on the go make sure to buy a fun water bottle; I say fun as it’ll help you to remember to take it with you! I have a clear reusable water bottle with my name on and a pink one that I keep at work for clinic. Most coffee shops are more than happy to fill up your drinks bottle with water if you’re buying a tea or coffee at the same time. Another alternative is to use a glass bottle or even a traditional glass (!).
Ian: Same as with a reusable coffee cup, just have an aluminium or glass one or plant based bottles (PLF) and re-use forever.
- 5) Buying fruits and vegetables loose, as opposed to in plastic bags.
This is probably one of the hardest as it’s mainly down to what’s available in the shops, however there are almost always the ‘loose’ fruit and vegetables alternatives that you can buy that aren’t wrapped in unnecessary plastic. Bananas are a classic example; buy them loose and you immediately cut down on the plastic that you take home with you.
Ian: This will change over the next year where you will see less film and return to paper and the option to buy non wrapped Fruit and Veg.
After discussing the things that I personally do to reduce my single use, I then asked Ian a few more interesting questions that I was keen to know more about!
- What inspired you to rejoin the team at Iceland and help them to reduce their plastic packaging?
Ian: Iceland is a private straight talking retailer than moves like a speed boat not a supertanker. We now sell product in 41 countries of the world and next is Norway. In my role Packaging plays a massive role in the branding/positioning of the company brand. Therefore your packaging must represent what you believe in. The massive move into no plastic is one step as is our new pledge to remove palm oil from our products. As I work at the top level I can really influence the materials which are supporting the foods we sell and the better world. That was the reason to come back to Iceland for 5 years to influence the future and pass on a legacy.
- What plans do you have for Iceland’s new packaging?
Ian: New product development is critical for any Own Label brand and we launch about 500 per year. Without giving too much away it will not surprise you that we have found plastic alternatives for all products moving into 2019. Some of these are from food processing waste but watch this space!
- Do you think it’s down to the consumer or food manufacturer to reduce single plastic consumption?
Ian: It is down to all to reduce single plastic use, but retailers must lead. If we show the way others will follow. I really believe that. Look at what as happened since our announcement. Ryanair, Waitrose, Co-op, McDonalds, Nestle the list goes on for rapid change.
- What do you think the future is for food packaging and do you think the government will set regulations around it?
Ian: The Government will set rules and they need to! However we are usually ahead in retail. For instance in January the government said 2042 to resolve plastic – We said 2023. They have had to totally rethink. The biggest decision they have to make after the bottle deposit scheme just announced is how do we recycle? Is it composting, Anaerobic Digestion, Burning . We need to put the infrastructure in from cradle to cradle. By doing this it will drive consumer behaviour by the collection system we will have at our back door.
- Do you have any more tips for consumers who want to reduce the amount of single-use plastic that they use?
Ian: People are so smart they have already started milk rounds in glass again for milk so no plastic bottles. We are not using plastic straws, buyers are demanding buying Veg, Fruit and Cheese without film. Question everytime you use single plastic and habits will change. Put items in paper bags not plastic. Ketchup, beans back to glass or board packs. It really is moving and once we have cracked cooked meats, bacon etc we may have less shelf life but no single use plastic that cannot be recycled.
I want to say a huge thank you to Ian (pictured left) for giving us his time to answer all of my questions!
Below: A message for Sir David Attenborough who talks about the dangers of plastic in our Ocean on Blue Planet.
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