On Friday (01 Nov), Tesco announced it will remove one billion pieces of plastic from products for sale in UK stores by the end of 2020 as a part of its 4Rs plan to tackle the use of plastics in its business.
Tesco’s 4Rs strategy – Remove, Reduce, Reuse, Recycle – will see non-recyclable and excess packaging removed from its business. Where it can’t be removed, for example where it prevents food waste, Tesco will work with its suppliers to reduce it ‘to an absolute minimum’.
‘Well done Tesco for taking responsibility and making steps towards a plastic-free future. New forecasts predict that we are quadrupling plastic production within the next decade, so anything that focuses on real reduction is needed fast.
‘With the plastic crisis only getting worse, removing plastic packaging must sit at the top of the agenda for all major supermarkets. For too long recycling has been touted as a viable solution to plastic pollution, but with plastic production only ramping up, quadrupling in the next decade, it is clear our attempts to recycle our way out of the problem have failed catastrophically. It is not the answer.
‘Shoppers buy what they are sold. It really is that simple. Grocery shopping has now become a total guilt-trip. Finally Tesco will ease this guilt by selling their customers plastic free choice.’ – Sian Sutherland, Co-Founder of A Plastic Planet.
The retailer will explore new opportunities to reuse its packaging and ensure that anything left is all recycled as part of a closed loop. If packaging can’t be recycled, ‘it will have no place at Tesco’.
‘Tesco is absolutely doing the right thing in looking to reduce the number of pieces of plastic packaging it produces.
‘When supermarkets focus solely on reducing their packaging by weight, this can trigger a policy of light-weighting – meaning packaging gets thinner or smaller, but still exists as a throwaway item that can pollute our waterways and harm marine wildlife.
‘Last year Tesco produced more than 18bn pieces of plastic, so they’ve still got plenty of work to do, but this is a good start and we hope to see further reductions when it introduces its reusable packaging scheme for online orders in the New Year.’ – Louise Edge, Head of Greenpeace UK’s Ocean Plastic Campaign.
To cut one billion pieces of plastic from Tesco own-brand products by the end of 2020, Tesco will remove:
– Small plastic bags, commonly used to pack loose fruit, vegetables and bakery items; they will be replaced with paper alternatives
– Plastic trays from ready meals
– Secondary lids on products such as cream, yoghurts and cereals
– Sporks and straws from snack pots and drinks cartons
– 200m pieces of plastic used to pack clothing and greetings cards
‘Plastic pollution is the most visible symptom of the environmental crisis we’re currently facing. Businesses, governments and households have all got an important part to play, so it’s good to see Tesco’s commitment to significantly reduce the amount of plastic we use.’ – Paula Chin, WWF UK’s Sustainable Materials Expert.
In August, Tesco met with 1,500 suppliers to let them know that packaging will form a key part of its decision-making process, which determines which products are sold in its stores.
The retailer has worked with its suppliers, making clear that it reserves the right to no longer stock products that use excessive or hard-to-recycle materials.
Tesco has already stopped offering carrier bags with online deliveries – a decision that will stop 250 million bags being produced every year.
‘Our work to Remove, Reduce, Reuse & Recycle is already transforming our packaging. Over the next 12 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.’ – David Lewis, Tesco CEO.
In January 2018, Tesco called on the government to introduce a UK national infrastructure for recycling and offered to help, including giving space in our car parks for recycling and testing the collection of materials not currently recycled by local councils. That invitation stands and the need for action has never been more pressing.