Tesco removes plastic rings from beer and cider packs

In what it claims is a first among UK supermarkets, Tesco is scrapping flexible plastic rings on all beer and cider multipacks.

The changes will tackle 50 million pieces of plastic within a year. Image: Tesco

The changes will tackle 50 million pieces of plastic within a year. Image: Tesco

The retailer is also removing shrink wrap from beer and cider can multipacks on own-brand lines, and urging third-party brands to follow suit. Brands unable to comply with the requirement will not be listed until packaging is changed. 

Across own brands and stocked brands, Tesco’s UK stores will stop receiving beers and ciders housed using these packaging formats this month. The last remaining packs with rings and/or shrinkwrap should be sold within the next few weeks, Tesco anticipates.

Tesco estimates that the change will mitigate the distribution of 50 million pieces of plastic packaging each year. The firm’s quality director Sarah Bradury said the packaging is “unnecessary plastic” and pointed to environmental issues relating to these flexible plastics specifically, including the fact that they pose a hazard to wildlife including birds.

Beer and cider brands that sell to Tesco have been briefed to use alternatives such as cardboard sleeves, plastic-free rings, boxes or rigid plastic. To this latter point, most UK councils collect rigid plastics at kerbside from homes for recycling, but coverage is far more sparse for flexible plastics.

Many of the UK’s most popular brewers have already made strides in introducing new plastic-free packaging formats for multipacks. Diageo, which owns brands including Guinness and Smithwicks, has stopped using plastic six-pack rings, as have Heineken and Budwiser Brewing Group UK. Carlsberg Group, meanwhile, has introduced ‘snap packs’ – multipacks held together with glue that can be placed in household recycling along with the aluminium cans.

Plastics strategy

Tesco’s overarching plastics strategy is designed to remove all “excess”, “unnecessary” and “non-recyclable” plastics from the business and ensuring that all remaining materials can be recycled. It is centred around a hierarchy of four principles: remove, reduce, reuse, recycle.

More than one billion pieces of plastic have been removed from Tesco’s own brand and stocked products under the strategy. Aside from the changes to beer and cider, the supermarket has removed plastic bags from loose fruit and vegetable aisles and is phasing out shrinkwrap from tinned multipacks.

On the recyclability piece, Tesco recently unveiled plans to host permanent in-store recycling points for soft and flexible plastics at all major UK stores. Competitor Sainsbury’s also recently began trialling an in-store take-back and recycling scheme for flexible and soft plastics at 63 shops in the North East of England.

Sarah George



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