Blogs

Topics

All

Tesco first retailer to publish breakdown of packaging data

Giles Bolton

Responsible Sourcing Director
Welwyn Garden City

8 Nov 2018

Part of commitment to move towards a closed loop system to end packaging waste

We know that packaging plays an important role in protecting products and reducing food waste - but it shouldn’t come at an unaffordable cost to the planet. So, we are actively reducing packaging and working towards all remaining packaging becoming part of a closed loop - meaning no packaging will go to waste.

Earlier this year, we laid out our ambition to move to a closed loop approach for packaging

Eliminating hard to recycle materials

A critical first step to achieving this closed loop is simplifying the number of materials we have in our packaging. Following a full review of tens of thousands of products, we have worked with our suppliers to identify the hard to recycle materials we wanted to remove from our Own Brand by the end of 2019.

Removing hard to recycle materials such as PVC and Polystyrene simplifies the recycling process, including reducing contamination of materials that can be recycled into new packaging.

Data publication

We believe what gets measured gets managed, and have accounted for our UK packaging data as part of The Courtauld Commitment since 2005, and more recently as part of the Plastics Pact.

But today, we want to go further. By publishing the breakdown of materials in our packaging, we can pinpoint more accurately where we need to focus our activity. 

With millions of shopping trips per week in the UK, our packaging footprint is significant and the changes we make will have an impact both in our own brand and our suppliers. While we have reduced the weight of our packaging by 30% since 2007, and in the UK our own brand products have 83% recyclable packaging, we know we have more to do. Since we calculated these 2017 numbers, we have already removed 2,000 tonnes of hard to recycle plastics. The publication of our data today will help in the move to accelerate our progress, starting with the elimination of the hard to recycle materials. 

(Tesco UK Packaging materials, 2017)

Tonnes

Paper

Glass

Aluminium

Steel

Plastic

Wood

Other materials

Own Brand

58,021

87,263

4,533

23,698

134,323

8

479

Branded

94,336

342,804

25,728

39,681

118,264

93

381

Total

152,357

430,067

30,261

63,378

252,586

101

860


(Tesco UK primary plastic packaging, Own Label, 2017)

Polyethylene-terephthalate (PET)

High-density polyethylene (HDPE)

Polypropylene (PP)

Other Polyethylene (PE)

Polyvinyl Chloride (PVC) & Polystyrene (PS)

Other plastics including laminates

Unspecified

57,671

28,689

19,639

10,948

3,820

728

12,827


National recycling infrastructure

Simplifying the materials we use in packaging is just the first step towards closed loop recycling.

Next, we need to collect and recycle those materials back into packaging. This is going to take real partnership and innovation. One critical element is the move to a national UK infrastructure for collection of waste. Currently local authorities each have different systems and collect different materials. This makes it confusing for the public, and complicated and costly for the recycling industry – often leading to good materials going to waste. That’s why we continue to call for the UK government to change its approach to recycling. 

Partnership and innovation

Our commitment to our customers is to do everything to make it as simple as possible to reuse or recycle, and we continue to work with our supplier partners, the packaging and the recycling industry to innovate to find ways to remove, reduce and recycle packaging.

We will use our own operations to improve the collection of materials, for example we launched a trial of deposit and return units, rewarding customers for recycling.

In addition, we will keep testing ‘little helps’ to reduce plastic and packaging in Tesco stores. For example:

  • Six months ago we trialled ‘bring your own container’ in 10 stores. When customers told us they appreciated the little help, we rolled it out to over 700 stores. It continues to grow in popularity.
  • Last week we worked with a Welsh based start up to offer a reduced plastic sanitary product.

Every year in our Little Helps Plan we will report progress against our ambitions and strategy. We will share our packaging data too. This approach is how we will ensure we are on track to deliver our strategy and how our customers can judge progress.

We always welcome your feedback, so if you have any comments on our strategy, please do share them via cr.enquiries@tesco.com

You may also like...