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Reducing packaging at Tesco

Mark Caul

Technical Manager - Packaging at Tesco
Welwyn Garden City

1 Jun 2017

Reducing, recycling and re-packaging at Tesco.

As the technical manager for Tesco packaging, the 3R's of Reduce Reuse Recycle, are important to me. It’s my role at Tesco to make sure that we are on the forefront of packaging technology. I work with our product teams and suppliers to bring our customers the benefits of packaging, like protecting food from damage and extending shelf life. While also trying to reduce the amount of materials we use in the process. Food Waste reduction is a priority for Tesco and as a Chartered Environmentalist I am delighted that Tesco has signed up to the United Nations goal for reducing food waste.

Less packaging

Did you know that Tesco track every single piece of packaging that passes through our business by weight? 

We work out the average weight of packaging per unit sold. Using this information, we annually calculate on our goal towards packaging reduction. Our latest figures show that we reduced our packaging by 1.6%. A reduction we achieved while actually having sold more products in our stores. Overall we’ve managed an impressive 37% reduction in packaging since 2007. This trend is important as customers care about the amount of packaging we use. If we reduce the amount of packaging it helps reduce our carbon footprint. We need to be careful that we reduce packaging without compromising food safety or protection though. It is a balance.

Reducing our reliance on plastics

We know that plastic packaging can be a frustration for customers as it is sometimes difficult to recycle. The properties of these materials allow many of our products to be protected and kept fresh for as longer. This leads to a reduction in food waste but we also know that we can reduce the types of plastics we use. We have been working hard to do this, in particular reducing the use of polystyrene and PVC. Last year we avoided using 653 tonnes of polystyrene in our fish packaging by using PET made from recycled plastic bottles instead. Overall PVC and polystyrene makes up less than 1% of our food packaging and we hope to reduce this further.

Packaging to reduce food waste

Packaging developments and technologies to support food waste reduction will be a key part of our commitment to halve food waste by 2030. We’re working with suppliers on some trials to innovate how our produce is packaged. We're looking for better performing packaging that takes the needs of older consumers and single households into account. With our ‘eat fresh, keep fresh’ chicken fillet packaging, the fillets come in a packet that has a separate compartment for each chicken breast, with a tear seal between the two. This means customers can eat one and keep the other which we hope will help them to reduce food waste at home. Re-sealable packaging will also reduce waste in the home. Our core cooked meats products and our frozen peas are an example where packaging reduces waste. 

Packaging commitments

My team works hard to reduce packaging use in all its operations. We’re also committed to providing better consumer information on how to dispose of packaging. We do this by promoting the on pack recycling logo scheme. Tesco have also been supporting the Courtauld Commitment. We’re delivering its objectives to reduce product and packaging waste, to maximise recycled content and reduce carbon impact. By 2020 we’ve targeted a 30% reduction in carbon.

My personal commitment is also to support Tesco’s initiative to reduce food waste, through what I do in work to how I life my life at home.

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