Tesco calls for recycling reform as it strives for 100% closed-loop packaging

Supermarket giant Tesco has strengthened its ambitions to make all its packaging across its UK operations closed-loop and is now calling on the Government to support the chain's aim by reforming the nation's recycling infrastructure.

Speaking to suppliers at an Institute of Grocery Distribution (IGD) event on Wednesday (23 May), the retailer pledged to an ongoing target of removing, reducing and redesigning its packaging materials; working with customers to drive behaviour change, and improving its internal packaging recovery and recycling systems – something Tesco stated it would “ideally” work with the Government to achieve.

As a first step, Tesco, committed to removing all packaging which is ‘hard to recycle’ from the chain’s own-brand products by the end of 2019, following a consultation with suppliers. Materials set to be phased-out include PVC, polystyrene, oxy-degradable materials, water soluble bio-plastics and industrial compostable.

“We are committed to reducing the total amount of packaging used across our business and, ideally, we would like to move to a closed-loop system,” Tesco’s chief product officer JasonTarry said. “To complete the journey to a closed-loop approach, we stand ready to work with government to reform the current approach to recycling in the UK.”

The UK’s largest grocer last year published its Little Helps plan, which includes packaging targets of halving packaging by weight against a 2007 baseline by 2025 and has reduced packaging by weight by 37% since 2007 – the baseline for the target. Other targets include making all packaging compostable or recyclable and ensuring all paper and card is sustainably sourced.

Turning to food waste

The announcement comes days after Tesco revealed that it will remove ‘best before’ dates from many of its fresh produce lines in a bid to cut  customer food waste levels.

The supermarket will remove the dates from about 70 of its fruit and vegetable products, including apples, potatoes, tomatoes, citrus fruits and onions, in a bid to stop less edible food going to waste.

Tesco’s head of food waste, Mark Little, explained that the move will lessen confusion among customers who do not understand the difference between ‘best before’ dates, which indicate that the quality of a product may deteriorate, and ‘use by’ dates, which indicate when it becomes less safe to consume the food.

Little said that this confusion “can lead to perfectly edible items being thrown away before they need to be discarded”. WRAP estimates that around 600,000 tonnes of consumer food waste are triggered each year due to the misunderstanding.

By altering its produce dating system, Tesco is building on its pledge to halve food waste through its involvement with WRAP’s Courtauld 2025 Commitment, in line with the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDG). The company’s chief executive Dave Lewis chairs a collaborative group aimed at reaching that particular goal.

Sarah George

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