British supermarkets are flooding the UK with 810,000 tonnes of single-use plastic every year, according to Greenpeace.

An analysis by the environmental charity found seven of the UK’s biggest retailers are putting the equivalent of around 59 billion pieces of plastic packaging into circulation – over 2,000 items for every household in the country.

The organisation also found half of the supermarkets surveyed have no specific targets to reduce plastic packaging and most of those who do are replacing it at such a slow pace that it would take them 20 years to completely rid their shelves of throwaway plastic.

The survey – Checking Out On Plastics – by the Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA) and Greenpeace UK, also found the 10 leading supermarkets are also producing 1.1 billion single-use bags, almost one billion bags for life and 1.2 billion plastic produce bags for fruit and vegetables on top of the plastic packaging.

Greenpeace UK oceans campaigner Elena Polisano said: “Plastic pollution is now a full-blown environmental crisis and our supermarkets are right at the heart of it.

”Much of the throwaway plastic packaging filling up our homes comes from supermarket shelves, but high street giants are still not taking full responsibility for it.

“So far most retail bosses have responded to growing concern from customers with a pick-and-mix of different plastic announcements, but have failed to come up with the coherent plastic reduction plans required to solve this problem.

“The success of the plastic bag charge shows big retailers can crack down on plastic waste if they really mean to.”

2025 goal

Peter Andrews, head of sustainability at the British Retail Consortium, said: “Retailers recognise how important it is to tackle plastic pollution, removing it where possible and ensuring all packaging is recyclable.

“Billions of tonnes of waste has been prevented so far and the industry is working towards the goal of 100% of plastic packaging being reusable, recyclable or compostable by 2025 at the latest and eliminating all unnecessary single-use packaging.

“We know customers need to trust that if packaging is put in a recycling bin, it will be recycled by local authorities. But we are concerned that the pace of change is being hampered by a lack of recycling infrastructure.”