World / Science & Health

First 'plastic free' label to help shoppers curb pollution

Thomson Reuters Foundation

A new “plastic-free” logo launched in Britain on Wednesday will allow shoppers to identify products with plastic packaging as companies come under growing pressure to use green alternatives.

Eight million tons of plastic — bottles, packaging and other waste — are dumped into the ocean every year, killing marine life and entering the human food chain, according to the United Nations.

Growing concern from the public and lawmakers about the environmental damage means food and drink manufacturers and retailers are under pressure to act on plastic waste.

“We all know the damage our addiction to plastic has caused, we want to do the right thing and buy plastic-free,” said Sian Sutherland, co-founder of A Plastic Planet, the British-based campaign group behind the new label.

“But it is harder than you think, and a clear, no-nonsense label is much needed. Finally, shoppers can be part of the solution not the problem.”

The British supermarket giant Iceland, Dutch supermarket Ekoplaza, which launched a plastic-free aisle earlier this year, and the British tea company Teapigs are among the first companies to adopt the label.

Last month, more than 40 companies — including Britain’s biggest supermarkets, Coca Cola, Nestle and Procter & Gamble — signed up to the U.K. Plastics Pact, pledging to eliminate unnecessary single-use plastic packaging by 2025.

In January, privately owned Iceland became the first British supermarket to promise to eliminate plastic packaging from all of its own-brand products.

“With the grocery retail sector accounting for more than 40 percent of plastic packaging in the UK, it’s high time that Britain’s supermarkets came together to take a lead,” said Iceland’s managing director, Richard Walker, in a statement.

In 2015 Britain introduced a charge for plastic bags which has led to an 80 percent reduction in plastic bag use since 2015.

Nearly 200 nations late last year signed a U.N. resolution to eliminate plastic pollution in the sea, a move some hope will pave the way to a legally binding treaty.