Tesco removes nearly 1.5bn pieces of plastic from packaging

Tesco has removed nearly 1.5bn pieces of plastic from its packaging, as a fundamental part of its ongoing sustainability efforts.

The last 12 months have seen a number of significant changes taking place at the grocer as it embraced reuse schemes, launched a pilot for soft plastics collection and moved away from single-use plastic.

Tesco’s head of packaging James Bull spoke to PackagingEurope.com about the supermarket’s ongoing efforts, revealing that it has “improved the packaging for more than 1,600 products”, saving over 6,000 tonnes of material in the process”.

“This includes the removal of nearly one and a half billion pieces of plastic ,” Bull added. “We have also launched a reusable shopping service with Loop in ten stores and soft plastic recycling collection points in all larger stores.”

As one of the Big 4, Tesco takes its responsibilities seriously, speaking with customers, suppliers and experts as it looks to improve its sustainability efforts across the board. It follows a strategy based around the 4rs (remove, reduce, reuse, recycle), encouraging suppliers and customers to use less packaging and recycle more, where possible.

Tesco launched a “preferred material list” in 2018, simplifying its packaging portfolio and driving circularity, listing materials and formats as either green, amber or red. The green list comprises nine easy-to-recycle materials which suppliers are encouraged to use, while amber materials are not so easy and red materials are unlikely to be recycled at all.

Read more: Tesco saves 67 tonnes of plastic a year with toilet roll reduction

Bull also works with material sector experts to assess the probability of packaging being recycled by customers. “[Being] technically recyclable is not enough, we need to help stack the odds in the favour of our customers, helping them to recycle.”

Last September, reusable packaging project Loop officially launched in a number of Tesco’s UK stores, allowing consumers to hire a reusable container, resulting in a zero-waste product. The launch spanned 88 products in total – 35 own-brand and 53 branded, including Persil, Fever-Tree, Carex, Tetley Tea, and BrewDog.

“Reuse is the way to unlock the shackles of single-use and that is why Loop is so exciting,” said Bull. “It is an amazing project… [and] the pre-filled nature of the product means it’s about as easy as reuse can be for customers.”

Tesco has sold more than twenty thousand items in this way already, but the project isn’t ready for roll-out just yet.

“It currently costs more to sell food in this way, and we know customers are reluctant to pay a premium for reusable packaging. As a result, we’re fine-tuning and developing our proposition to find ways for it to operate efficiently and perform at scale,” Bull said.

“We’re proud of what we have done so far and thankful for the growing collaboration and transparency that has got us this far in our journey,” he added.

“Packaging plays an important role in protecting products and reducing food waste, but it must not come at an unaffordable cost to the planet and should never find its way into the environment.”

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