Packaging Frequently Asked Questions

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

We’re taking action to remove all non-recyclable and excess packaging in our business – including plastic. Where we can’t remove it, we reduce it to an absolute minimum and look to reuse it. We are working to ensure whatever is left can be recycled. If packaging can’t be recycled, it will have no place in our business.

We are also working with the government to help create a consistent nationwide collection service so that all households can recycle the same materials.

2. What we are doing to help?

Over the last year we’ve changed the packaging for 800 Tesco brand products, removing over 4,000 tonnes of hard to recycle packaging. By the end of this year, we will have removed the hardest to recycle materials from Tesco products and we’re now working with branded suppliers to do the same.

We’re also exploring new technologies to make sure things like film lids and pouches can be recycled. And we’re experimenting with different ways to help colleagues and customers use less plastic and recycle more.

We’ve turned one Tesco Extra in Cambridge into a trial store to reduce plastic waste. Customers are helping us understand how we can make it easier to use less packaging – from multi-buys for the same price as multipacks to a loose-only fruit and veg aisle. When we understand what changes work best, we’ll roll them out to all our 2,658 UK stores. At scale, this will be transformational. We could remove 490 tonnes of plastic by scrapping multipack tins; 50m plastic binders on beer cans, and 44m sporks from our “on the go” food range. The opportunity is huge. And we’re already well on the way in other areas. Our recent decision to scrap plastic bags with home delivery orders removed 250m bags a year.

We recently brought together our partner suppliers to look for truly efficient packaging solutions, ones which might require different materials and new designs. The need is urgent and so from next year, we will assess the size and suitability of all packaging as part of our ranging decisions, and if it’s excessive or inappropriate, we reserve the right not to list it.

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).

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 collected 750,000 pieces of packaging.

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. We have collected around 750,000 pieces of packaging through our reverse vending machines. This means £75,000 worth of coupons has been given to customers. We’re collecting up to 3000 bottles a day in some stores.