Wanstead environmentalists mount mass action to return plastics to high street supermarkets

PUBLISHED: 15:26 01 July 2019 | UPDATED: 16:15 01 July 2019

Members of Cleaner Greener Wanstead, Wanstead Climate Action and a group of councillors took plastic back to Tesco, Co-op and Marks & Spencers. Picture: Paul Donovan

Members of Cleaner Greener Wanstead, Wanstead Climate Action and a group of councillors took plastic back to Tesco, Co-op and Marks & Spencers. Picture: Paul Donovan


Environmental activists protested against "pointless plastics" by handing back packaging to stores including Tesco, Co-op and Marks & Spencer.

Wanstead campaigners joined a nationwide protest that has featured on the BBC documentary War on Plastic, presented by Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall and Anita Rani.

Campaigners returned "pointless plastic packaging" to the supermarkets and wrote messages demanding change on the items to get their point across as loudly as possible.

Susie Knox, co-ordinator of Campaign for a Cleaner, Greener Wanstead, added: "Eight million tonnes of plastic are dumped in the oceans every year. Our supermarkets are producing vast quantities of the stuff and offering shoppers almost no alternatives.

"Bearing in mind the widely publicised harm caused by plastic pollution, it's astonishing that we're in a situation where TV documentaries are having to run campaigns like #OurPlasticFeedback to address the problem.

"All supermarkets and other businesses should be selling products without packaging wherever possible, and switching to materials that are easily recyclable here in the UK if packaging is absolutely necessary."

Campaigners said there was "positive engagement" from the shops, which took the items and agreed to recycle them.

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Cllr Paul Donovan, who represents Wanstead Village ward, said: "This was a good start, the supermarkets seem keen to continue the dialogue. They are keen to recycle, which is good, but the real challenge of #Ourplasticfeedback is not to produce the plastic in the first place.

"It is a scandal that supermarkets charge more for loose items in paper bags than they do for the same product wrapped up in plastic - this cannot go on. We are literally choking ourselves and the planet with these patterns of behaviour, they have to stop."

The plan is that the conversation will now continue to see what can be done to get single-use plastics eliminated from Wanstead's high street.

Michael Fletcher, Co-op Retail chief commercial officer, said: "How we do business really matters. The world is experiencing a climate crisis and we need to work together to avoid it. Accelerating action is the only way to mitigate and reduce impacts on our natural world, and to ensure stable food supply chains in the future.

"A rolling set of publicly available and reviewed stretching, short term targets, are imperative if we are to hold ourselves to account to achieve our collective longer-term ambitions. Making sure that we have a natural environment we are proud to pass on to future generations needs action to be taken now."

A spokesman for Marks & Spencer said: "We recycle any packaging that is brought back to our stores, including difficult to recycle packaging through our plastic take-back scheme.

"As a material, plastic is not without benefits. It plays an important role in preserving food, maintaining quality and preventing waste. It also has environmental benefits - as an example it is lighter than glass, therefore reducing harmful CO2 emissions as it is more efficient to transport through our supply chain.

"But we know there are challenges with the use of plastics. We want to play our part as a business and take steps to move to a circular economy where we use less plastic and recycle or reuse the plastic that we do use, and we want to help our customers to do the same.

"We know we can't do it all alone so much of what we are doing is working collaboratively with the government, NGOs and the wider industry through initiatives such as the UK Plastics Pact to enable much-needed changes to the UK's waste collection and recycling infrastructure."

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