Supermarkets are major contributors to climate change as they are responsible for the release of large amounts of greenhouse gases. Not only do they add to climate change through their emissions, but they also produce large amounts of waste, through the food they throw out and the single- use plastic they use.

According to Which, who have carried out a sustainable ranking study, Lidl and Waitrose are the top two supermarkets who are the most sustainable, due to their low greenhouse gas emissions. Lidl are also working towards becoming carbon neutral by the end of 2022.

Lidl are also working towards
becoming carbon neutral

At the bottom of the list fell Marks and Spencer and Iceland, who have the highest greenhouse gas emissions.

Supermarkets including Morrisons, Aldi and Tesco fell in the centre of the sustainability rankings, proving there is a lot more to be done by supermarkets to become sustainable and lower their emissions.

Plastic waste
Since 2015, there has been a 97% decrease in the sale of single-use plastics since the plastic bag charge was introduced by the UK Government. Most supermarkets now offer the sale of reusable plastic bags, which if used in the correct way are sustainable. These bags remove the need for single- use plastic bags to be bought, used and discarded.

97% decrease in the
sale of single-use plastics

Some green organisations have claimed that these reusable bags can become unsustainable as people use them in the same way as single-use plastic bags, meaning that they are ending up on landfill as waste instead of being reused.

Supermarket giant, Morrisons, in recent years has brought in a new solution to cut down plastic bag use, of both the single-use and reusable varieties. Their strong paper bags, which hold up to 16kg, can be used again and again. When they eventually break or tear, they can be recycled as paper.

Most supermarkets are also cutting back on the plastic in their produce sections. Sainsbury’s, Morrisons, Aldi and Tesco, to name a few, have opted for loose fruit and vegetables. In many of these supermarkets, they have also introduced reusable produce bags to pop your fruit and vegetables in that you can bring back into store and use again.

Food waste
In 2019, over 100 of the UK’s supermarkets, including its supermarket giants pledged to halve the amount of food waste they send to landfill by 2030. In the UK, roughly 9.5 million tonnes of edible food is thrown away each year, globally, food waste produces between 8 to 10% of our annual greenhouse gas emissions.

Globally, food waste produces
between 8 to 10% of our
annual greenhouse gas emissions.

Supermarkets are working towards this goal, and many have seen positive sustainable outcomes for their work. Sainsbury’s for example has seen a 13% reduction in their operational food waste tonnage and have claimed that they have sent zero waste to landfill since 2013.

Morrisons are also combatting food waste through putting parcels together for food banks. These parcels can be bought by customers to be donated to food banks. Not only do these prevent food from going to waste, but it also means that those struggling through the cost-of-living crisis can get access to the food they need.