Packaging Frequently Asked Questions

1. What are you doing to reduce plastic waste in Tesco?

We know that plastic reduction is an issue that our colleagues and customers feel strongly about. At Tesco we are taking a more holistic approach at achieving the broader goals of reducing waste and increasing recycling in the UK.

We are working to reduce the amount of packaging in our products and ensure any packaging we do use is designed to be reused, recycled or repurposed so that we make efficient use of valuable resources and minimise our environmental impact.

2. What we are doing to help?

Materials and design

We are committed to removing all hard to recycle material from our packaging by the end of 2019. We are also reducing plastic for example by introducing paper straws as part of our general merchandise range, and in our Cafés we only provide paper straws for customers. We are working with our supplier partners to consider more environmentally-friendly alternatives to the packs of straws we sell, those attached to drinks cartons. Also, for some of our prepared fruit range, we have removed plastic sporks – eliminating 17 million sporks a year that were previously not recycled.

Further information can be found here.

Recovery and recycling

At over 600 stores we offer recycling points for customers to recycle plastic films and carrier bags which can’t be recycled through kerbside collections. We have introduced a new logo which can be found on bread bags and bags used for frozen products so our customers know what they can recycle at our stores. Further information can be found here 

3. What percentage of your products are recyclable?

In the UK, over 83% of the packaging used for our Own Brand products is widely recyclable (depending on if the local authority collect it). We are on track to have fully removed non-recyclable or hard to recycle packaging materials by the end of 2019 in our UK Own Brand products, and have already removed 2,914  tonnes of hard to recycle plastic.

4. Can I recycle my plastic bags and other plastic materials at Tesco stores?

To help our customers recycle, we have recycling stations in many of our UK stores including front of store recycling for carrier bags. We have recently extended this particular service to allow films of the same material type (polyethylene) to be added, for example bread bags. A new logo has been introduced which can be found on bread bags and bags used for frozen products so our customers know what they can recycle at our stores.

Customers can also recycle plastic bottles through our in-store trialling of a reverse vending system in the UK where customers are rewarded with money back for returning their plastic bottles. The trial is taking place at selected stores in Borehamwood, Swansea, Edinburgh, Manchester and Birmingham.  To date we have already recycled over 100,000 plastic bottles.

5. Why is your fresh produce often pre-packed?

Our pre-packed offer on fresh produce has packaging for a number of reasons. Firstly, it preserves the produce and therefore reduces waste. It also provides a method for containing product that is pre-weighed and sold by pack weight, which our customers value.

We have recently started a trial in our Watford and Swindon stores where we have removed an extensive selection of plastic wrapped fruit and veg products. A total of forty five packaged foods have been taken out of the two stores, which will see fruit and veg including varieties of apples, mushrooms, peppers, onions, bananas and avocados free from their packaging. More information can be found here.

6. Can I bring in my plastic container to take home food bought at the deli counters?

Customers are able to bring their own plastic reusable containers to our fresh meat, fish and cheese counters. Our counter colleagues will weight products, wrap them in recyclable paper and place them inside the customer’s container with the price label affixed to the paper.

7. Why do you not use compostable packaging?

There is very limited collection in the UK for compostable packaging and so customers would either contaminate their recycling stream or have to dispose of it in their general waste. If compostable packaging is sent to landfill, it will compost without oxygen and produce methane, one of the most dangerous greenhouse gases.

8. Why do you not use paper bags instead of plastic bags?

Our analysis has shown that paper bags have a larger environmental impact than plastic due to their weight. Nevertheless, our Bags for Life are made from 94% of recycled content and can be replaced free of charge if they become damaged.

9. Why do you still use black plastic for your ready meals even though it can’t be recycled?

We recognise that at this point in time black plastic is difficult to recycle, so we are putting the necessary steps in place to stop using black plastic for our Own Brand product packaging by the end of 2019.

10. Do you support a deposit return system?

A cost-effective Deposit Return System (DRS) is one initiative that as part of a broader holistic approach could help to improve recycling and reduce waste.  We are trialling in-store recycling machines for plastic bottles in the UK where customers are rewarded with money back for returning their plastic bottles. More information can be found here.