Budgens retailer Andrew Thornton believes his Belsize Park store will be “virtually” plastic-free within three years and has challenged retailers and manufacturers to follow suit in his vision to reduce plastic packaging.

Last week the North London store unveiled dedicated plastic-free zones showcasing more than 1,700 products including meat and fish, packaged in innovative materials such as beechwood nets, pulp, paper, metal, glass, cellulose and cartonboard.

Andrew told C-Store: “Our aim is to show the big supermarkets that it is not as difficult to go plastic-free as they think. If we, as one shop, can get more than 1,700 plastic-free lines together in 10 weeks, then surely the likes of Sainsbury’s, Asda and Tesco can. Imagine what they could do if they put their minds to it.

“Then, if they applied it, the big manufacturers would suddenly have to put their products in non-plastic as well.”

He added: “More than 1,700 out of our 14,000 products are now plastic-free. Our aim is to double that within six months and our vision is that in three years’ time we’ll be virtually plastic-free. But that requires the support of the big manufacturers.”

Andrew downplayed questions over the cost of plastic-free packaging. “In terms of cost, paper packaging is no more expensive than the plastic bag it was in before. Some of the materials are more expensive, but the price of those will come down.

“We have absorbed some of that cost – our cheese, we’ve had to put the price up very slightly per kilo, but so little people would hardly notice. It is a myth that it has to cost more.

“The more head of steam we can get behind this, and the more big retailers say they’re going to do, then the more efficient and sustainable it will be.”

Sian Sutherland, co-founder of campaign group A Plastic Planet, said: “Thornton’s Budgens is disrupting the market and showing that wrapping something as fleeting as food in something as long-lasting as plastic is the definition of madness.”