Tesco to remove one billion plastic pieces from products by end of 2020

Tesco will remove one billion pieces of plastic from products sold in UK stores, including ready meal trays, straws from drinks cartons and packaging for clothing and greeting cards, by the end of 2020.

Tesco will remove small plastic bags used for loose fruit, vegetables and bakery items and replace them with paper ones. Plastic trays from ready meals, secondary lids on products such as cream, yoghurts and cereals, sporks and straws from snack pots and drinks cartons will all be removed or replaced with alternative materials.

In addition, more than 200 million pieces of plastic used for packaging on clothing and greeting cards in Tesco stores will be removed.

Tesco’s chief executive Dave Lewis said: “Our work to Remove, Reduce, Reuse & Recycle is already transforming our packaging. Over the next twelve months, we will remove one billion pieces of plastic, further reducing the environmental impact of the products we sell.

“By focusing on solutions that we can apply across all our UK stores and supply chain, we can make a significant difference and achieve real scale in our efforts to tackle plastic.” 

In August, Tesco convened 1,500 suppliers to inform them that packaging has become a key aspect of its supplier relations and would determine what products get sold in stores. Lewis has vowed to end contracts with third-party brands which use excessive and non-recyclable plastic packaging.

For plastics that Tesco deem unreplaceable, such as cases where it prevents food waste, it will work with suppliers to reduce plastic use to a minimum.

Plastic pledges

The UK’s largest grocer published its Little Helps plan in 2017, which includes packaging targets of halving packaging by weight against a 2007 baseline by 2025 – having reduced packaging by weight by 37% since 2007. Other targets include making all packaging compostable or recyclable and ensuring all paper and card is sustainably sourced.

Tesco is also working with rival supermarkets to uncover a solution for hard-to-recycle black plastic that places recycled content into food-grade packaging. It is estimated that the UK’s major supermarkets are producing more than 800,000 tonnes of plastic packaging waste annually.

The supermarket has also announced intentions to stop housing products in hard-to-recycle materials by the end of 2019 and was the first retailer to publicly disclose its packaging data.

Tesco recently revealed it would act as a partner for TerraCycle’s Loop platform – which enables businesses to provide product refills to consumers while retaining ownership of their reusable packaging in place of single-use plastics.

Matt Mace

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