Our packaging footprint – towards a Closed Loop

Giles Bolton
Giles Bolton
Responsible Sourcing Director

Last September we set out our 4R’s framework to Remove packaging where we can, Reduce what we cannot remove, Reuse more, and make sure the packaging we do use can be Recycled.

Despite all the challenges created by Covid to all supermarkets, this agenda remains vital to our customers and colleagues - and to us as a business. We continue to make good progress against our 4R’s framework and our ambition for a closed loop approach in which all materials are used and reused. Along with our preferred materials list, we are seeing increasing tangible change in our own brand products and those from branded partners; from our programme to Remove 1 billon pieces of plastic, to our ground-breaking Reuse partnership with Loop, or brands such as Pringles and Ribena innovating new solutions exclusively with us.

Three years ago we became the first retailer to publish our packaging data, and our commitment to transparency and openness continues. Therefore, we want to share the latest information on our packaging footprint. Since our last update (available here), the volume of own brand packaging which is widely recyclable increased to 84% (from 83% the year before), however our increased focus this year with suppliers means we expect to reach 90% this year.

We set ourselves the mission to permanently remove 1 billion pieces of plastic by the end of this year. To date we have removed 720 million. Covid has caused delays in a couple of product areas meaning we may not achieve the full target until very early 2021, but overall we are delighted supplier partners have continued to deliver despite the year’s events. You can read more about the challenges of Covid and how Tesco is helping customers here.

The data tables below gives more detail. We’re pleased to report that Our Own Brand primary packaging use has fallen, as has our plastic specifically. But we have a great deal further to go, and our ongoing ambitious programme is aimed to ensure this.

While we remain strongly focused on all the things we can to enable a closed loop, we know we cannot do it alone. That is why it’s so important than the Government introduces a consistent approach to kerbside recycling. We welcome the progress DEFRA has announced on this and we will help further developments wherever we can. Ending the patchwork approach across the UK where different materials are collected by different local authorities is a crucial step in ending customer confusion about recycling – and achieving much higher recycling rates as a whole. You can learn more about how well your local authority recycles here and here. Together, we can improve recycling and achieve a closed loop.

  Tonnage % of change 2018 vs 2019
Total Own Brand Primary Packaging 308,917 -4.7%
Total Branded Primary Packaging 627,893 -3.9%


Tonnes Plastic % of change 2018 vs 2019
Own Brand 135,594 -2.8%
Branded 121,892 -3.3%
Total 257,486 -3.0%


Our plastics breakdown is below:

Tonnes of plastic used in Own Brand primary packaging by type (Tesco & Jacks UK stores)

Polyethylene terephthalate (PET)

High-density polyethylene (HDPE)

Polypropylene (PP)

Other polyethylene (PE)

Polyvinyl chloride (PVC) & polystyrene (PS)

Other plastics including laminates










We would encourage all retailers to adopt transparency in their plastic and packaging footprint. At Tesco we give regular updates through our Little Helps Plan.

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