uring late 2019, 3Keel convened two workshops with representatives from most of the UK grocery retailers and a selection of major brands, on behalf of Greenpeace UK. The focus of these sessions was to explore how to accelerate the adoption of packaging reuse and refill systems, as a route to tackling the problems of single use plastic packaging.
Following the success of these sessions, there was appetite for research work to understand where reuse opportunities may exist across the different categories of grocery products.
To inform this research, one of the participating retailers provided us with their detailed sales data. The 3Keel team used this, along with a range of other public sources including from the British Soft Drinks Association, WRAP, and Greenpeace’s retailer surveys to build a data model to indicate the scale of plastics placed on the market across different product categories. Owing to the range of impacts of plastic (from ingestion by animals through to carbon footprint of production) the results were reported as units, components and weight. The aim should be to implement changes which tackle all three measures.
Why this is important
Greenpeace has set a 50% reduction target by 2025 for retailers. Using the calculated baseline volumes, we then illustrated the types of reduction needed across different categories to meet the target. To achieve the 50%, swingeing cuts are needed and these were applied to categories where alternatives are proven to work (such as water refills or milk bottle deliveries), although change at this scale would still require significant adaptation by customers and transformation by retailers and in their supply chains.
The Greenpeace report flashes out the issues, including the key environmental impacts as well as hopeful developments, including the launch of Loop in the UK with Tesco. The report has generated significant media attention, with a front page exclusive in the I-newspaper.
We believe our analysis is the first publicly to present different measures of plastic mapped against product types. There will no doubt be plenty of queries and further research needed, but we hope this helps to progress the agenda for reuse systems which offer so very many benefits against single use alternatives.