Nikki Dixon is Asda’s first ever Senior Manager for Plastic Reduction. Here she writes about her role coordinating our work to reduce plastic – and the progress we’ve already made…
Like so many people, I watched the BBC’s Blue Planet series last year and was shocked by the images showing the extent of plastic pollution in our oceans and its heart-breaking impact on marine life.
When the programme aired, I was on maternity leave with my second child, Poppy, and it really brought home to me the huge responsibility we have to reduce our reliance on plastic if we are to leave healthy seas and oceans for our children and grandchildren to enjoy.
I was so proud when, in February, Asda became the first of the major supermarkets to announce detailed plans to reduce its plastic use, including removing single-use coffee cups, straws and plastic cutlery from our cafés and phasing out single-use carrier bags. I was prouder still when, after coming back from maternity leave, my boss asked me if I would take responsibility for delivering our commitments. No pressure!
If you didn’t see it at the time, you can read our CEO Roger Burnley’s blog about our plans here.
I’ve been at Asda for 14 years in various roles and I’ve no doubt that this will be my most challenging one yet. It’s a pretty daunting task, but one I’m delighted to take on!
We’re a big organisation, with lots of people working in a number of areas in which we can make a difference – whether that’s in the packaging that we use, the products we sell, or the bags we offer at the tills. So it’s been really great that our CEO Roger has given me a personal mandate to work across all parts of the business to deliver on the promises that we’ve made to our customers.
Since I started a month ago I’ve been doing the rounds, meeting the experts and learning about how and why we use plastic, where it is needed to reduce food waste and where we can reduce our use or swap out for another material. It’s a really complex area and there’s a lot to consider.
We’ve had some great success already; since we made our announcement we’ve identified 1,700 tonnes of plastic to remove from our own brand packaging, which puts us well on the way to our target of reducing the amount of plastic used in our own-brand products by at least 10% within the next year.
We’ve got lots of great plans in the pipeline to help us meet that goal and go further, which I’m really excited about, and I’ll be providing updates throughout the year as we do so. I’m also going to be honest about where we don’t currently have the answers – whether that’s in areas where there is no current viable alternative, such as plastic film, or in areas where the environmental impact of an alternative might be worse, such as through higher carbon emissions or food waste.
We’re working with packaging experts at the Retail Institute at Leeds Beckett University on innovative ways to tackle these issues and our pledge is that we’ll share any solution we find with the industry, so that everyone can benefit.
I think people are sometimes sceptical when businesses say they’re going to do something about whether they are actually taking it seriously, or if they’re just paying lip service. As far as I know, no other supermarket has a full-time Senior Manager for Plastic Reduction, so I hope that shows how serious we are! I live and breathe this every single day and I’m absolutely dedicated to making sure we do the right thing.
I’m loving my role and really looking forward to you joining me on my journey to help Asda to use less and recycle more.