Lidl UK says it will remove black plastic from its entire fruit and vegetable range by the end of the month.
Black plastic packaging is not recyclable in the UK, as it cannot be detected by the sorting systems used for plastic recycling, and the supermarket chain says its move will save an estimated 50 tonnes of black plastic waste a year.
It also plans to remove black plastic from its fresh meat, fish and poultry range by August next year, it announced on Friday.
The moves are part of its plans to make 100% of its own-label packaging – which it says will only be used where necessary – widely recyclable, reusable or refillable.
Black plastic packaging will be replaced by alternatives, which Lidl says will be fully recyclable, but which could include clear plastic.
Julian Kirby, plastics campaigner at Friends of the Earth, said: “Getting rid of black plastic is a positive first step. It seems ridiculous that so much plastic is still being produced which can’t even be recycled.
“But let’s not just switch one plastic for another. Our fruit and vegetables don’t need to come smothered in a plastic jacket.
“Ultimately, to end the scourge of plastic pollution clogging up our oceans, we need to get rid of most plastic altogether.”
Louise Edge, senior oceans campaigner for Greenpeace UK, was less qualified in her praise. She said Lidl’s action was a clear signal to the government and major retailers that speedy action was possible.
“Supermarkets are the place where a lot of the throwaway plastic filling up our homes comes from, so it’s good to see more of them are responding to the public’s concern by taking action,” she said. “Black plastic is one of the most problematic forms of plastic you can find on supermarket shelves, and Lidl are doing the right thing by phasing it out as quickly as possible.”
Not all clear plastic is recyclable and what types can be recycled can also vary by area.
Ryan McDonnell, Lidl’s commercial board director, said the “significant move away from black plastic demonstrates our dedication to tackling this important topic”.
Last week, Waitrose & Partners announced it was to remove traditional plastic bags for loose fruit and vegetablesand 5p single-use plastic bags from its stores by next spring.