Friday 23 August 2019

Environmentalists are calling for more efforts to reduce plastic packaging

NEW MAN: Green Party MEP Ciaran Cuffe. Photo: Gareth Chaney/Collins
NEW MAN: Green Party MEP Ciaran Cuffe. Photo: Gareth Chaney/Collins
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Markus Krug

Politicians and environmental groups are calling on major Irish retailers to intensify their efforts to reduce plastic packaging.

The current efforts that include replacing plastic packaging with recyclable, reusable or compostable options until 2022 in the case of Aldi Ireland or 2025 with SuperValu, Tesco and Lidl Ireland, are neither quick enough nor going far enough, they claim.

Newly elected Green Party MEP, Ciarán Cuffe said: "I would hope that they could move a bit faster. That is a long time away. We need to act sooner to protect the environment. We need a sense or urgency.

"I think we have seen an extraordinary rise in environmental interest over the last six months. Consumers want to see retailers respond to this. I believe retailers need to act and need to act now," he added.

MEP Cuffe is not sold on the current state of the packaging in Irish supermarkets and the measures to reduce plastic at the moment.

"I think there is a lot of lip service. When I look at my own supermarket; most of the mushrooms in the store are in plastic containers and not cardboard.

"I think retailers want us to feel that they are changing but I’d ask if there is a deep-seated change or paying lip service to environmental concerns," he said.

Mr Cuffe further encouraged retailers to do more: "I recognise that not everything can move away from plastic. But the legislators can only do so much, while the major shops and businesses can do a lot more than they are currently are doing."

Environmental groups like Friends of the Earth (FOE) think similarly. FOE are part of the Sick of Plastic campaign that aims to reduce the use of single use plastics.

They say that their research has shown that many customers are calling for retailers to further reduce the amount of plastic packing.

"We welcome recent efforts made by Ireland's leading supermarkets, but still there is a lot to be done. And customers will not stop until supermarkets meet all of their demands to tackle excessive plastic packaging," said Claudia Tormey, Sick of Plastic Campaign Manager.

She added: "Simple actions such as 'shop and drop', where people leave their unwanted packaging behind in supermarkets, have sent a clear message to retailers that the public are fed up of taking home excess plastic."

Sick of Plastic has collected 21378 signatures for a petition that includes several demands for Irish retailers.

The demands include the call for more items without any packaging and the wish to allow shoppers to bring their own containers for dried goods among others.

Ms Tormey called for the major retail chains to look at their smaller competition.

"Many independent grocery shops are paving the way here in Ireland, but we need the large supermarkets to get on board too, so that shopping plastic free is accessible and affordable to everybody."

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