BY KATIE - MYGREENPOD, 26 May '18

Tesco has pledged to get rid of plastic packaging that’s hard to recycle, and will avoid ‘false solutions’

Tesco has announced its ambitions for a closed loop system across its UK operations, pledging to remove, reduce and redesign packaging materials, improve recovery and recycling and work to raise awareness and educate in order to change customer behaviour.

For this closed loop to become a reality, Tesco has called on the government to establish a consistent recycling infrastructure across the UK, where variations in current levels of actual recycling ‘are extreme’.

Reforming UK recycling

Jason Tarry, Tesco’s chief product officer, said, ‘We are committed to reducing the total amount of packaging used across our business. Ideally we would like to move to a closed loop system.’

Jason added, ‘We will work with our suppliers to redesign and reduce all packaging materials and after consultation with our leading suppliers earlier this year we will remove all packaging that is hard to recycle from our business by 2019.’

To complete the journey to a closed loop approach, Tesco said it’s ‘ready to work with government to reform the current approach to recycling in the UK.’

As a part of its plan, Tesco said it will also work to develop easy to understand packaging recycling communication and the amount of recycled materials it buys to help shoppers who want to reduce their packaging impact.

Ditched materials

Tesco has pledged to remove hard to recycle materials including PVC, polystyrene, oxy degradable materials, PLA (polylactic acid), water soluble bio plastics (such as Plantic) and industrial compostable materials.

It is also consulting on developing a closed loop solution for other materials, or removing them from the business. These include home compostable (including cellulose and Natureflex), oriented polypropylene, black plastic, polypropylene (for certain food applications) and complex laminates.

Materials Tesco will support include sustainably sourced wood, board, paper and glassine, PET (polyethylene terephthalate), glass, polypropylene (non food), HDPE & LDPE, polyethylene (its preferred material for flexible film), steel and aluminium.

’it simply has to go’

In response to Tesco’s announcement, Elena Polisano, oceans campaigner at Greenpeace UK, said, ‘As the UK’s largest grocer, Tesco could be a game-changer on plastic packaging. By pledging to quickly eliminate some of the plastics that are difficult to recycle, it has raised the bar for action on problem plastics. And by acknowledging that we can’t blindly replace plastics with bioplastics, some of which can also persist in the environment and harm wildlife, Tesco is committing to avoid false solutions.’

But, Elena added, Tesco hasn’t set a ‘much-needed yearly target for decreasing its volume of plastic packaging, which all supermarkets must do to curb plastic pollution.’

‘Iceland is leading the way on reduction with a commitment to eliminate single-use plastic packaging on own brand products by 2023 and Lidl is working towards a 20% reduction by 2022. We hope other retailers including Tesco will follow suit with public reduction targets. We are challenging all supermarkets to reduce their single-use plastic footprints in the shortest time possible, and in the meantime they should pull out all the stops to remove unnecessary and non-recyclable plastic packaging by 2019. Now we know what it’s doing to our oceans, it simply has to go.’

ELENA POLISANO
Oceans campaigner at Greenpeace UK

The Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA) and Greenpeace UK are conducting a survey of major UK grocery retailers, their use of single-use plastic packaging and their targets to reduce it. The results, due in the autumn, are expected to reveal the volume of single-use plastic packaging each retailer puts onto the market every year, their targets to reduce plastic packaging, and their approach to tackling plastic pollution across their supply chains.

Tesco’s track record

In October 2017, Tesco published its original packaging targets in its Little Helps Plan. The supermarket pledged to halve its packaging weight (against a 2007 baseline), make all packaging in Tesco fully recyclable or compostable and ensure all paper and board is 100% sustainable.

Since 2007, Tesco has reduced packaging weight by 37%. In 2017, 700 million single-use carrier bags were removed from stores to drive a shift to ‘Bags for Life’ made from 94% recycled plastic.

All plastic film packaging for bread made in 100 in-store bakeries has been removed, and replaced with paper or bring-your-own bags. This will be rolled out to around 520 stores by the end of 2019.