Iceland and Co-op back bottle return scheme to help cut ocean plastic pollution
Responding to a Greenpeace survey of supermarkets' views on such a system, which would add a cost to the purchase of drinks bottles that customers get back when they return the container, both expressed support for the move.
Greenpeace, which wants a bottle deposit return scheme to reduce plastic pollution in the seas where it is harming wildlife and entering the food chain, urged other retailers to follow suit.
But concerns have been raised about how such a programme could work, including potentially removing valuable recyclable materials from council-run household collections or distorting the market with a switch to other less recyclable containers.
Other national supermarkets surveyed were non-committal or expressed reservations about a deposit return scheme, Greenpeace said.
Richard Walker, director for sustainability at Iceland Foods, said Britain was failing to recycle up to 16 million single use plastic bottles every day.
"This cannot carry on," he said.
"It is causing untold damage to our oceans and wildlife.
"It is also a ticking time bomb for humanity, since we all ultimately depend on a healthy ocean environment for our own survival."
He said deposit return schemes worked, and Britain needed to follow the lead of other countries.
"Introducing a deposit return scheme may well add to our costs of doing business," he said.
"However, we believe it is a small price to pay for the long-term sustainability of this planet.
"I urge all other retailers to do the right thing and follow suit."
Jo Whitfield, retail chief executive, Co-op, said the company was in favour of creating a deposit return scheme which increased overall recycling of packaging, reduced litter and helped marine pollution.
"We are committed to ensuring all of our own packaging will be recyclable and we are firm supporters of initiatives designed to boost recycling levels," she said.
"We look forward to working with others, including government, local authorities, manufacturers and other retailers, to help design a scheme that delivers in all these areas."
Greenpeace campaigner Louise Edge said: "It is possible to prevent throwaway plastic polluting our rivers and oceans, but to achieve this we really need companies to step up to the plate,
"That's why it's brilliant to see Iceland and the Co-op coming out in favour of deposit return schemes, one of the tried and tested solutions needed to end the ocean plastic pollution crisis,
"Iceland and Co-op have shown some vision and set the standard, now it's time for other companies to follow suit and start publicly backing deposit return schemes."
Samantha Harding, Campaign to Protect Rural England's litter programme director, said: "Iceland and the Co-op should be commended for their commercial and environmental leadership in supporting a UK deposit return system.
"Their commitment shows that retailers of any size can play their part in ridding our countryside and oceans of unnecessary waste."