Looking back at the Big 4’s September eco-drive

September has been a busy month for supermarkets thinking up environmental schemes.

Appropriately, we’re in still in Recycle Week, which has finally reached maturity in its 18th year running.

The event aims to get people recycling “more of the right things, more often” and is sponsored by the Co-op, Waitrose and Ocado.

However, the Big 4 – Tesco, Sainsbury’s, Asda and Morrisons – haven’t been resting on their laurels either.

In the past few weeks we’ve seen programmes tackling anything from banana bags to coffee pods.

So, what big ideas have the Big 4 come up with?

READ MORE: Tesco partners with WWF to fight climate change


The retailer is encouraging shoppers to switch to reusable packaging in a trial across the east of England.

Customers can buy 88 products – ranging from Tetley to BrewDog – then return the container for a small deposit.

Around 40 per cent of the products are Tesco own-brand, including pasta, rice and sugar.

If customers switched three products from their weekly shop, the packaging would be reused over two million times every year.

“We’re giving customers a wide range of options and we’ll learn as much as we can from this to inform our future packaging plans,” chief executive Ken Murphy said.

READ MORE: Morrisons to refill water bottles in anti-plastic drive


Morrisons is testing a “zero waste” recycling scheme in six stores around Edinburgh.

They aim to recycle all packaging and unsold food by 2025, and will allow shoppers to drop off products not usually collected on bin days, like crisp packets or face masks.

“We can, at a stroke, enable these trial stores to move from recycling around 27 per cent of their general waste to over 84 per cent,” sustainability director Jamie Winter said.

The grocer also hopes to save 180 tonnes of plastic a year by replacing plastic banana bags with a “sturdy” paper bunch.

However, charity bosses have recently warned that fears of Covid infection have caused unpackaged fruit sales to slump.

READ MORE: Sainsbury’s launches plant-based tea bags


Sainsbury’s claims to have become the first British supermarket to label its coffee pods as recyclable.

The aluminium containers are often thought to be too small to be sorted for recycling.

“With consumers more concerned about the planet than ever before, it felt like a natural place to look,” product director Claire Hughes said.

“We hope others follow suit and change their packaging to raise awareness and encourage recycling.”

READ MORE: Asda pledges to go carbon neutral by 2040


If September has been a big month for environmental causes, then November should be even bigger.

Ahead of the UN Climate Change Conference (COP26) in Glasgow slightly over a month, Asda has unveiled its first Scottish refill store in the city.

Shoppers can buy over 60 unpackaged products, including Yorkshire Tea and Kellogg’s cereals.

“With COP26 coming to Glasgow, there has certainly been an increase in interest in environmental issues across the country,” Asda sustainability director Susan Thomas said.

“To see refill land in the host city and with such engaged customers is a really important moment for us.”

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