Reuse will help to tackle our plastics problem

Giles Bolton
Giles Bolton
Responsible Sourcing Director

Later today, I’ll be participating in a discussion at the Sustainable Retail Summit to exchange ideas on reusable packaging systems. I look forward to hearing from others and sharing how Tesco is developing a revolutionary way of shopping that’ll reduce the reliance on single use materials and prevent the environmental problems from plastic waste.

We address the impact of plastic packaging through our 4Rs strategy: to Remove it where we can, Reduce it where we can't, Reuse more and Recycle what's left. Our 4Rs strategy aims at ensuring that plastic never finds its way to landfill or into the environment.

As part of our 4Rs strategy, we set ourselves the following targets for 2020:

  1. Remove 1 bn pieces of plastic
  2. Reduce all unnecessary packaging to an absolute minimum
  3. Advocate for a national recycling infrastructure in the UK, and to
  4. Introduce a nationwide scalable reuse offer

Since then – and through the Covid pandemic – we have continued to make progress on this agenda. We have removed over 800 million pieces of plastic and will continue to make progress in spite of increased customer demand for single use plastic. Replacing plastic packaging with other materials is not always the right decision as all materials have an impact on the environment. So we prioritise removing plastics – not switching to other materials. Where this is not possible - for instance to avoid food waste or ensure safety – we have improved our packaging, reducing plastic by thousands of tonnes from the products we sell. Our industry leading Packaging Formats and Materials list has dramatically improved the recyclability of own-label and branded packaging at Tesco.

This year, we have gone even farther and worked with Loop to introduce a scalable reusable packaging offer throughout the country that can replace single use materials altogether. Our pilot partnership with Loop provides an online shopping service that delivers products in reusable packaging. Since Loop launched in July 2020, we have delivered thousands of orders to 453 different towns and cities across the U.K. The partnership has already delivered thousands of orders to customers across the country. Every shop means fewer pieces of single use plastic finding its way into customers’ homes. We will continue to increase the range of products available on Loop.

In May next year, we plan to trial the sale of Loop products in a number of our stores where customers will be able to choose products that are prefilled into reusable packaging, and buy these as part of their weekly shop alongside conventional products. Just like the online service, customers will pay a deposit for the packaging which will be refunded in full once the empty containers are returned.

We aim to increase the scale and simplicity of reusable packaging options for customers and grow our offer year on year. Just like our customers, we care deeply about the impact of plastic pollution on the environment. We have an important role to play in addressing this problem and want to work with others to find solutions.

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