Tesco begins plastic glitter phase-out

Tesco has confirmed that it will remove plastic glitter from its Christmas trees, plants and flowers before the 2019 festive season begins.

Tesco begins plastic glitter phase-out

The first of Tesco's plastic-glitter-free festive plants will go on sale in November 

The UK’s largest retailer confirmed this week that it will instead be using a plastic-free, biodegradable glitter on the products, which are due to go on sale in November. 

“Customers tell us they want us to use less plastic, so this is one of the ways we’re trying to help at Christmas,” Tesco’s product development manager for horticulture Michelle Buck said.

Tesco’s decision comes amid a wider review of plastic use in own-brand products and is widely expected to be a precursor for a glitter phase-out in greetings cards, wrapping paper and stationery.

However, a date for a brand-wide phase-out has not been announced – much to the disappointment of campaign group 38 Degrees. The Group is notably petitioning the Department for Food, the Environment and Rural Affairs (Defra) to include litter in the scope of its 25-Year Environment Plan, which targets the phase-out of all “unavoidable” single-use plastics by 2042.

“The news that Tesco is removing glitter from flowers, plants and trees this Christmas is great but it’s extremely disappointing that [it is] not going a step further by removing it from cards and wrapping paper,” 38 Degrees’ campaigns by you co-ordinator for Essex David Innes said. “. Glitter from these products will be around long after the sparkle of this coming Christmas has passed.”

All that glitters…

Despite its metallic appearance, most glitter is made up of PET plastic bonded to aluminium. This makes it a source of microplastic pollution. 

Given that up to 32,000 tonnes of microplastic pollution enter British waterways each year and that one in three fish caught in the North Sea last year had microplastics in their digestive systems, calls for glitter bans have been mounting in the wake of Blue Planet 2.

These calls to action have already begun affecting major retailers, with Aldi UK & Ireland and Waitrose & Partners both having outlined glitter phase-outs in the past year. The former is targeting full removal by 2020, starting with its 2019 Halloween range, while the latter will take plastic glitter off own-label cards, wrap, crackers, tags, flowers and plants within the next four months.

Cultural institutions have also taken heed, with plastic glitter now banned from more than 60 UK-based music festivals including Boardmasters and Bestival, as well as BBC show Strictly Come Dancing.

Sarah George

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