Morrisons has become the first major retailer to commit to ending the use of black plastic packaging in its own-brand food and drink products to boost its green credentials.

The supermarket chain will replace black plastic, which is difficult to recycle, with recyclable plastic made from 85 per cent recycled content.

Black plastic accounts for more than seven per cent of all plastic used by Morrisons, which has nearly 500 stores across the UK.

The material is coloured using carbon black pigment, which means it’s invisible to optical sorting equipment at plastic recovery facilities,

This results in the packaging being disposed of in landfill or incinerated.

The move will result in 4,000 tonnes of plastic being made more easily recyclable each year and is part of a commitment by the retailer to make all packaging recyclable, reusable or compostable by 2025.

It is the latest green initiative from Morrisons, which claims to have already cut its use of unnecessary or problematic plastic by 9,000 tonnes annually.

This includes 174 million plastic produce bags removed from fruit and veg aisles, 600 tonnes of unrecyclable polystyrene taken from branded food and drink products, and a further 1,300 tonnes of plastic cut out through switching to paper carrier bags.

Natasha Cook, packaging manager at Morrisons, said: “It’s important to our customers that we make it easier to recycle plastic and so we are very pleased to announce that we’ve been able to eliminate black plastic from our own-brand products.”

But anti-plastic campaigners insist much more must be done to combat plastic pollution, which poses a major threat to nature.

Sian Sutherland, A Plastic Planet co-founder, said: “This announcement falls well short of the mark from what is needed.

“Packaging which contains recycled plastic content will not solve the crisis as plastic cannot be recycled infinitely. Unusable after being recycled once or twice, plastic will always make its way into the environment unless incinerated.

“What is needed is real leadership in tackling the issue with an onus placed on reducing plastic packaging across the board.

“With plastic production forecast to quadruple in the next decade, we strongly urge Morrisons not to fall into the trap that we can recycle our way out of this problem. We can’t.

“Reduction is the only viable way to seriously combat the problem. We call for all supermarkets to focus on this and become real game-changers in the fight against plastic.”

In a bid to become more environmentally friendly, the supermarket has also begun allowing customers to use their own containers for meat and fish from its butcher and fishmonger counters; completely removed expanded polystyrene from all its own food and drink products; and trialled reverse vending machines to encourage customers to return plastic drinks containers.

Water is freely available in Morrisons cafés for customers to refill their own bottles, while drinking water fountains have been installed in new stores.

Anyone using their own mug for a hot drink gets a 25p discount, while plastic straws are no longer available on the shelves or in the cafes.