A wide-ranging group of former and existing retail executives have joined forces to campaign for stores to introduce an aisle of goods that is plastic-free.

This move is designed to further reduce reliance on plastic packaging, and give consumers a chance to “vote with their feet”. It’s backed by a strong body of representation from both retail and industry groups.

Included amongst the campaign signatories are Debenhams Chairman Sir Ian Cheshire; and Lord Rose of Monewden, who was previously CEO of Argos and Chairman and CEO of Marks & Spencer. Lastminute.com founder Brent Hoberman CBE is also on board, as are former or current bosses from Tesco, Asda, Weleda, Marston’s PLC, the Country Land and Business Association, the British Soft Drinks Association, Oxfam and Unicef.

Call for greater commitment to plastic-free shopping

The group has drafted an open letter, asking for packaging manufacturers and retailers to find new ways of avoiding using plastic. It encourages them to explore the growing range of new packaging solutions.

This greater commitment to zero-plastic packaging should include having an aisle of goods that demonstrate their stance. This will enable consumers to tangibly support the campaign, by consciously visiting that area of the store.

Would shoppers support new retail aisle?

Research shows that a third of consumers are conscious of environmental and social aspects of their shopping. So, this demographic is certainly likely to actively support plastic-free shopping aisles.

This is backed up by a poll conducted by a campaign group called A Plastic Planet. They claimed nine out of 10 people would support a plastic-free aisle in their local supermarket.

Those against the concept

This is not an entirely new idea, and not surprisingly, it has previously been met with disapproval by The British Plastics Federation (BPF). The organisation believes plastic-free aisles will detract from the important role plastic plays in packaging food up hygienically and conveniently.

Both the BPF and the Co-Op argue that more food could end up being wasted if there was a move away from plastic packaging.

Groundswell of alarm

Recent headlines on the way plastic is polluting coastlines in the UK and worldwide are adding weight to the argument.

Plastic has limited recycling potential, whereas glass and aluminium can be reused an infinite number of times.

Since 1950, there have been 8.3 billion tons of plastic manufactured, and around 6.3 billion tons of that has been added to landfill sites or dumped.

Apart from the effect, this has on the environment, the United Nations has warned that the presence of microplastic in foodstuffs could lead to long-term health problems.

over-packaged corn in supermarket (Woolworths) by anna_gregory licensed under Creative commons 4