Iceland boss goes back on commitment to become plastic free by 2023

The boss of Iceland has gone back on a commitment made at COP26 to become ‘plastic neutral’ this year.

Richard Walker said while the supermarket chain will “continue to make huge progress in reducing” its plastic waste, it will not meet its targets to become plastic neutral by November 2023 and plans to remove plastic packaging from its own label range by the end of 2023 “is also now impossible.”

The frozen foods group, which has more than 900 UK stores, blamed the setback on challenges from the pandemic, rising costs from the war in Ukraine and the lack of other viable materials.

Instead, the MD said there will be investment to keeping the costs of food as “low as it can be” including freezing the price of its £1 value range and delivering discounts to staff and OAPs, and rolling out an “innovative ethical credit scheme.”

In a recent blog, he said: “The last two years have provided major setbacks: we’ve had to fight to keep the nation fed during a pandemic, when the use of plastic packaging went up by 6%.

“There was a dramatic switch to online shopping, which was also using more plastic. And the focus, investment and momentum across the industry in plastic alternatives not unsurprisingly stalled.

“However, we are continuing to make huge progress in reducing our plastic use and I’m excited about some big changes that you will see in our stores throughout this year.

“By the end of next year, we won’t be out of plastic, but we will have done everything we can to reduce plastic despite the unforeseen crises we are still working through.

“And just because we’ll have missed our target doesn’t mean we’ll stop: the destination doesn’t change, but it will take us longer than I thought to get there. And I won’t stop until we’re out.”

Iceland also warned of a reduction in profits as it faces challenges from rising energy costs because of the aisles of chest freezers that make up its UK stores.

In its latest annual report, the retailer which made an adjusted pre-tax profit of £69m last year, said “volatility in global energy prices” meant it “will be unable to avoid a temporary reduction in our profits during the current year” unless prices stabilised.

It added that while the next 12 to 18 months would be “a tough time for the market”, it expected to benefit from investments in technology and logistics during the past year and its competitive stance on pricing.

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