Iceland has kick-started a drive to eliminate plastic packaging from all of its own-label products within the next five years.

The frozen-food specialist said it aims to help tackle the “scourge” of plastic pollution by replacing current packaging with paper-based trays and bags by 2023.

All of the new packaging will be recyclable, either through domestic waste collections or by using Iceland’s in-store facilities.

Iceland’s pledge to stop using plastic packaging – the first by a major retailer – comes after Theresa May vowed to ban all avoidable plastic waste in the UK by 2042.

The Prime Minister has called on supermarkets to open “plastic-free” aisles and suggested they could even introduce taxes on single-use plastic items such as food containers in a bid to help stamp out the problem.

Ahead of its move, Iceland carried out a survey of 5,000 people, 80% of whom said they would support the switch to plastic-free packaging.

And more than two-thirds of those surveyed said more retailers should follow Iceland’s lead.

The grocer’s managing director Richard Walker said: “The world has woken up to the scourge of plastics. A truckload is entering our oceans every minute, causing untold damage to our marine environment and ultimately humanity – since we all depend on the oceans for our survival.

“The onus is on retailers, as leading contributors to plastic packaging pollution and waste, to take a stand and deliver meaningful change. Other supermarkets, and the retail industry as a whole, should follow suit and offer similar commitments during 2018. This is a time for collaboration.

“There really is no excuse any more for excessive packaging that creates needless waste and damages our environment. The technologies and practicalities to create less environmentally harmful alternatives exist, and so Iceland is putting a stake in the ground.”

Iceland has already removed plastic straws from its ranges and said new food ranges being launched in February would be packaged in paper-based trays, rather than plastic.