Tesco removes one and a half billion pieces of plastic

Tesco has now removed more than one and a half billion pieces of plastic from its UK business since it launched its 4Rs – Remove, Reduce, Re-use, Recycle - packaging strategy.

In the last 12 months, 500 million more pieces of unnecessary plastic have been identified and removed. The most recent annual savings include:

  • More than 200 million bags removed from deliveries
  • 42 million plastic forks from prepared salads and rice bowls, replaced by the option of wooden alternatives
  • 14 million plastic chicken trays from whole chickens
  • 48 million own-brand plastic straws replaced with paper alternatives

Tesco Quality Director, Sarah Bradbury, said: “We all have a responsibility to take care of our planet and removing unnecessary plastic is an important way that Tesco can reduce its environmental impact. While we are proud of this achievement, we know we have more to do and our work to tackle the impact of plastic waste will continue in 2022 and beyond.”

Tesco’s 4Rs packaging strategy aims to remove plastic where it can, reduce where it can't, reuse more and recycle what's left.

Since the 4Rs strategy was launched, Tesco has removed:

  • Plastic wrapped tinned multipacks, totalling more than 75 million pieces a year
  • All 50 million pieces of plastic wrapping from cans of branded beers and ciders
  • Over 100 million additional lids from products including wipes, creams, yoghurts and desserts
  • More than 50 million pieces of plastic from greeting cards
  • Millions of plastic punnets from products such as peaches, plums and tomatoes

The 4Rs strategy has seen a business-wide programme of change that assesses every piece of packaging and removes all unnecessary and non-recyclable material.

Tesco initiated action by giving its suppliers a list of preferred materials that are easier to recycle and stated that it reserves the right to no longer stock products in excessive packaging or hard to recycle materials. The retailer then supported its suppliers to develop more sustainable packaging solutions.

The business is determined to tackle plastic waste and one of the ways it is also looking to help is by improving reuse options available to customers. 

In September last year, in partnership with Loop, Tesco began trialling a range of food, drink, household and beauty products in reusable packaging. Customers in ten large Tesco stores can now buy products in packaging that can be returned to store when finished so it can be cleaned, refilled and used again.

Notes to editors:

The 4Rs are underpinned by an industry leading Red/Amber/Green list of Preferred Materials and Formats. The list is based on UK recycling capabilities, infrastructure and end of life outcomes. It is a simple demonstration of the packaging types Tesco want to use. Tesco has pressed suppliers to remove all ‘red’ materials and refused to stock new products that contain ‘red’ materials, as customers cannot easily recycle them in the UK.

Since the launch of the 4Rs strategy in August 2019, Tesco has reduced the size of its annual packaging footprint by more than 6,000 tonnes, including 1.5bn pieces of plastic. Fruit juices, crisps and cheese are all now being produced using less plastic.

Tesco has redesigned over 2000 tonnes of packaging to improve recyclability and has doubled the amount of recycled content in its own label plastic packaging.

To lead customers and industry toward reusable alternatives, Tesco launched reusable packed products with Loop in ten stores. The in-store launch followed a year-long online pilot that allowed customers to order and return products in reusable packaging to and from their doorstep.

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