THE head of packaging from Iceland Foods has told the Sunday National that urgent action must be taken to simplify recycling and give cons-umers confidence about where their plastic waste goes.

Speaking ahead of a major environmental conference to be held in Edinburgh next week, Ian Schofield said the market-leading pledge by their chain to remove plastic packaging in the next five years must be supported by more clarity around recycling from government and local authorities.

The Sunday National is campaigning to cut the use of plastic food packaging.

Schofield said: “We all think all our councils are doing a great job with recycling but some of it goes in the ground and some of it was going to China. So we need to see some action now on the best recycling methods and I think consumers are starting to put pressure on government as well as on retailers. Consumers are getting very clued up.

“The momentum of change is starting to take effect. We need a really easy-to-understand national method of getting rid of plastic waste packaging so that every person knows exactly where to put each material and what will happen to it – compost, recycled, re-used. 

“So the big question for the [Scottish Government] is what are you doing to make sure that these products are being re-used and recycled properly and that consumers know for a fact that what they put into recycling will be treated properly?”

Iceland have made the most meaningful commitments of all UK supermarkets in the fight against plastic waste. In January this year Iceland announced it would eliminate or drastically reduce plastic packaging of all its own-label products by the end of 2023, effecting more than 1000 of its own brand products. The chain has just over 2% of the UK supermarket mix.

Using the hashtag #toocoolforplastic, managing director Richard Walker and his father, Iceland founder Sir Malcolm Walker, have been loudly campaigning against plastic waste in recent months.

Schofield said the chain is taking the action because “the sea is full of plastic, and we’ve all seen Blue Planet and the havoc it’s causing, and at the start of this year we really just decided enough is enough. In January I was about to launch a children’s food range and it was all wrapped in plastic – ridiculous really.

“In effect we are removing 13,000 tonnes of plastic and 3000 tonnes of carrier bags over the next five years.”

Other retailers including Tesco, Asda, Sainsbury’s, Aldi and Lidl have signed up to the UK Plastics Pact which promises to move to 100% of plastic packaging to be reusable, recyclable or compostable by 2025.
Schofield said Iceland Foods would not be joining the Plastics Pact.

“We’ve made the most serious commitment, and we’ll deliver on our promise years ahead of anyone else. We applaud what they are doing but we are removing plastics completely in five years, and if we can do it so can others.

“I am scouring the world, universities and research centres to find materials that will wrap frozen, chilled and eventually grocery products to remove plastic. One of my biggest challenges is not finding the materials, it’s doing it cost effectively. The consumer can’t afford to pay for this, so we are looking for really good innovations.”

Schofield added that he is personally reflective about changes in the industry. “The ironic thing was that 40 years ago when I trained as a packaging technologist, including in some Co-op factories up in Scotland and the fish factory we had in Aberdeen, I was moving everything from natural products like board and cellulose into plastic, “ he said. “And 40 years later I’m taking them out.”

Schofield is a keynote speaker at the Scottish Resources Conference in Edinburgh next week, hosted by Zero Waste Scotland, Sepa and CIWM, the charted body for waste professionals. Over 400 policy makers, entrepreneurs, inventors, business leaders, academics and investors will discuss marine litter prevention, the new Deposit Return scheme, biodegradable landfill ban and Zero Waste Towns.

Environment Secretary Roseanna Cunningham is expected to make an announcement on Scottish Government policy at the event.

On Thursday night the Scottish Resources Awards will recognise game changers in the industry, as well as a new award for young to mark the Year of Young People.

Iain Gulland, Chief Executive of Zero Waste Scotland said: “It is really encouraging to see Scotland’s young people making a difference in Scotland’s efforts to create a more circular economy.”