King calls for national recycling strategy as plastic bag focus rubbished

Josh Brooks,, 23 July 2009

Sainsbury’s chief executive Justin King has called for a national recycling strategy as he shot down the green lobby’s focus on plastic bags,

In a newspaper article today, King branded plastic bags a “poor measure” of how environmentally friendly a supermarket is. He has also called for a national strategy on recycling services to help consumers recycle more of their used packaging.

Writing in The Mirror, King said that while it was important to cut use of plastic bags, it was just one of many issues affecting the environmental footprint of the supermarket business.

“The carrier bag may be an obvious, iconic issue that makes easy headlines, but the plain truth is it is a poor measure of a supermarket’s – and a customer’s – real green-ness,” he said.

King’s comments come a week after Wrap published figures showing that supermarkets had reduced distribution of plastic bags by 48% between May 2006 and May 2009.

King said that this was “great news” but argued that counting bags at the checkout was no real measure of their environmental impact. He also pointed out that the bags made up just 0.05% of an average person’s carbon footprint.

King also called for a national recycling strategy. “Most shoppers are keen to recycle, but are often let down by individual local facilities and collection schemes. A national approach to recycling services is needed,” he said.

“In the meantime, we will continue to help by providing recycling banks at our larger stores, where customers can return anything from paper, cardboard and bottles, to plastic bags.”

While Sainsbury’s has recently pledged to reduce its overall packaging weight by a further third by 2015, King laid out a series of other measures that consumers can take to reduce their environmental impact.

These included storing food properly and in its packaging and cutting food waste by using leftovers in cooking.