Remove. Reduce. Re-use. Recycle

Sarah Bradbury

Group Quality Director

10 Jun 2019

We know how concerned our customers are about plastic.

And we know we have an important role to play in reducing packaging and preventing it from littering our oceans and countryside. We can’t continue as we are.

This is why we’re taking action. Over the last year, we’ve reduced the amount of unrecyclable plastic on our shelves, tested a number of innovative solutions, and became the first UK retailer to publish a breakdown of its packaging data.

We are working towards a closed loop system for packaging where we use as little plastic as possible: where packaging is used, re-used, collected and recycled continuously, so no packaging goes to landfill. As a business we are living by four words to do this and to help our customers: Remove. Reduce. Re-use. Recycle.

Reducing plastic and removing hard to recycle materials

Customers and colleagues don’t like packaging that feels unnecessary. They want to reduce their waste, just as we do, and the materials we use have a crucial role in helping customers, especially when it comes to recycling.

By the end of the year, we will have removed the hardest to recycle materials from our own brand packaging. Working hand in hand with our suppliers we have already removed plastics such as PVC from meat and polystyrene from pizzas; reducing waste, but also simplifying the recycling process and reducing the contamination of materials so that they can be recycled into new packaging.

So far, we’ve changed the packaging on 570 products so they are more widely recyclable, removing around 3,000 tonnes of ‘bad’, hard-to-recycle, plastics in the process. While this is a big step, we know there is so much more for us to do.

As we reduce packaging and use more widely recyclable materials, we continue to welcome greater consistency in the materials being collected by local authorities. A national UK infrastructure for the collection of packaging remains a critical element in recycling materials and creating a closed loop circular economy.

Trialling new ways to help our customers

  • We are testing new thinking to accelerate our progress:
    We have collected 250,000 bottles through our reverse vending machines. The plastic bottles returned by customers are now being used in a closed loop, recycled for new Tesco drinks.
  • We have collected 1 tonne of plastic for recycling in our soft plastics trial in the Swindon and Bristol area. It’s been hugely popular - we’re emptying the recycling units six times more than in the first weeks of the trial.
  • Customers have taken home 1500kg less plastic in our Watford and Swindon stores where we removed many packaged fruit and veg products.

Remove, Reduce, Reuse, Recycle

We’re reviewing every single piece of packaging we use, and over the next year we will remove millions of pieces of plastic from sale as we change our packaging.

Where we cannot remove, we will reduce and help customers use, reuse and are recycle continuously:

We will use smarter packaging design to use less plastic and make the plastic we use re-useable and recyclable. From carrier bags at the check out to coffee cups in our cafe, we want to make it easier to re-use plastic. We are ensuring all our plastics are recyclable, and introducing new ways to recycle plastics.

No packaging should go to landfill.

Reducing and recycling plastics is such an important issue for us, and critical for the future of our planet.

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