Many of the major supermarket chains have come under fire with accusations of various unethical acts over the past decade. They've wasted tonnes of food, they've underpaid their suppliers and they've contributed to excessive plastic waste in their packaging, which has had its impact on our environment.
But supermarkets and grocers are starting to sit up and take notice. In response to growing consumer backlash against the huge amounts of plastic waste generated by plastic packaging, some of the largest UK supermarkets have signed up to a pact promising to transform packaging and cut plastic wastage. In a pledge to reuse, recycle or compost all plastic wastage by 2025, supermarkets are now beginning to take some responsibility for the part they play in contributing to the damage to our environment, with one major supermarket announcing their plan to eliminate all plastic packaging in their own-brand products by 2023.
In response to criticisms over food waste, some supermarkets are donating some of their food surplus. However, charities estimate that they are only accessing two per cent of supermarkets' total food surplus, so this hardly seems to be solving the problem. Some say that supermarkets are simply not doing enough. Most supermarkets operate under a veil of secrecy when asked for exact figures of food wastage, and without more transparency it is hard to come up with a systematic approach to avoiding waste and to redistributing surplus food.
Some smaller companies are now taking matters into their own hands and offering consumers a greener, more environmentally friendly option. Shops like Berlin's Original Unverpakt and London's Bulk Market are plastic-free shops that have opened in recent years, encouraging customers to use their own containers or compostable bags. Online grocer Farmdrop eliminates the need for large warehouses and the risk of huge food surplus by delivering fresh produce from local farmers to its customers on a daily basis via electric cars, offering farmers the lion's share of the retail price.
There is no doubt that we still have a long way to go in reducing food waste and plastic waste. But perhaps the major supermarkets might take inspiration from these smaller grocers and gradually move towards a more sustainable future for us all.