In the old days a grocer, butcher or sweetshop owner would measure you the amount of something you needed, then wrap in paper or drop it in a bag for you to take home.

Supermarkets work a little differently.

A massive quantity of the single-use plastics in our homes come from the pre-packed food and other goods we pick up straight from the shelf in supermarkets.

But as awareness of plastic pollution has increased, the high-street stores have started to take action in an effort to cut down on packaging.

This is what the main supermarkets are doing and which has the most ambitions plans to take on plastic waste.

Sainsbury's - Halve plastic use by 2025 (60,000 tonnes gone)

Sainsbury's has set itself the most ambitious targets of the big four
Sainsbury's has set itself the most ambitious targets of the big four
 

Sainsbury's has committed to halving its plastic use by 2025. What's more, it promises all remaining plastic is reusable, recyclable or compostable by then too.

And that 's after it's work so far has already seen more than 10,000 tonnes of non-recyclable plastic and “virgin plastic” removed from its yearly output.

To do it, it plans to completely remove plastic bags from fruit and veg aisles, saving  515 tonnes of plastic each year. All disposable plastic bags have also been removed from bakery sections, saving 26 tonnes of plastic a year.

Plastic bags are set to be removed from online grocery deliveries, plastic trays to disappear from feta cheese displays, asparagus and sweetcorn (144 tonnes), cream pots (114 tonnes), tomatoes (102 tonnes), carrots (38 tonnes), plants and flowers (5 tonnes) and herb pots.

Then there's the plastic that's already gone from cauliflowers, organic bananas, easy peeler citrus fruit, brassicas and tomatoes, microbeads were removed from our Own Brand products in 2013, plastic straws are gone too (37 tonnes) as are the plastic stems from cotton buds (50 tonnes), tampon applicators (approximately 3 tonnes) and clothing sleeves (1000 tonnes).

But the supermarket knows hitting it's target will require a lot more work.

"We are fully committed to achieving this goal and know that we won’t meet it by simply introducing quick wins," the supermarket said.

"We will need to completely transform our business and work with customers and others across the industry to fulfil this commitment."

Tesco - remove 1 billion bits of plastic from stores

Tesco is taking action to cut the pieces of plastic it has in stores
Tesco is taking action to cut the pieces of plastic it has in stores
 

By the end of next year, Tesco has said it will stock a billion fewer pieces of plastic in UK stores by the end of 2020.

More specifically, the supermarket plans to:

It's already stopped offering carrier bags with online deliveries – meaning 250 million fewer bags being produced a year.

Tesco is also set to eliminate the hardest to recycle materials from 800 lines own brand products by the end of 2019 - equivalent to 4,000 tonnes of materials.

But while impressively large numbers, they has to be taken in context with just how much plastic the store still produces.

Greenpeace Louise Edge said: “Last year Tesco produced more than 18billion pieces of plastic, so they’ve still got plenty of work to do, but this is a good start and we hope to see further reductions when it introduces its reusable packaging scheme for online orders in the New Year.”

Asda- 100% recyclable packaging on own-brands by 2025

Asda has already made big changes
Asda has already made big changes

Asda has two key promises when it comes to reducing plastic use.

First, make sure 30% of plastic packaging comes from recycled materials - equivalent to a reduction of 19,500 tonnes worth of ‘virgin’ plastic - by the end of 2020.

Secondly, to reduce own-brand plastic-packaging by 15% by 2021.

Asda added that it will stop using "undetectable" black plastic on its own-brand by the end of this year and plans to only use recyclable plastic on own-brands by 2025.

It's also testing refillable and reusable packaging next year and has already cut more than 6,500 tonnes of plastic packaging from its own brand range. That's roughly equivalent to 600 million plastic bottles.

It did it though initiatives such as going completely plastic-free on growing herbs, taking plastic covers off 50 million greetings cards and removing windows and film from 1.6 million mince pies.

Asda was the first supermarket to remove 5p carrier bags from both stores and grocery home shopping, got rid of 110 million plastic straws from its cafes and in its party ranges and switched its entire chilled ready meal range into recyclable trays.

Added up, that's well over 700million bits of plastic gone already, impressive given it's got a lot fewer stores than Tesco.

Morrisons - cut 25% of plastic by 2025

Morrisons' high-profile initiatives include plastic-free fruit and veg aisles
Morrisons' high-profile initiatives include plastic-free fruit and veg aisles

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Morrisons has made three commitments on plastic pollution - by 2025 it will cut use by 25%, have 30% of its plastic from recycled sources and make all of the plastic in store  recyclable, reusable or compostable.

There are also high-profile initiatives including the roll out of paper carrier bags and plastic-free fruit and veg areas (although packaged veg is still available elsewhere), and trialling reverse vending machines to encourage customers to return plastic bottles.

Morrisons reckons its initiatives have already cut 9,000 tonnes of "unnecessary or problematic plastic" a year - with plastic straws, microbeads in products and stems on cotton buds among the plastic cut.

Morrisons own brand products will also no longer be produced using black plastic while expanded polystyrene has been removed from all Morrisons food and drink products.