Remove, Reuse, Reduce, Recycle

We address the impact of plastic packaging through our 4Rs strategy; Remove, Reduce, Reuse, Recycle. This means we:

  • Remove it where we can; 
  • Reduce it where we can't;
  • Reuse more, and;
  • Recycle what's left as a part of a closed loop.

This 4Rs strategy aims to ensure that plastic never finds its way to landfill or into the environment.

In 2018 we said we would remove the hardest to recycle plastics from our packaging by the end of 2019. We met this target for Tesco own-brand products and we’re now working with brands to do the same. Also in 2019, we said we would remove a billion pieces of plastic from our business by the end of 2020. We successfully hit this target and our work goes on to remove plastic wherever possible. Unnecessary plastic has no place in our business.

Next, we tackle excess packaging. We have comprehensively assessed the size and suitability of our packaging and since August 2019 actions taken as a part of our 4Rs strategy have reduced our annual packaging footprint by 3500 tonnes. We consider the size of packaging when we make ranging decisions and we will not list products that are sold in excessive packaging. Reviewing the packaging of every single product has provided us with a huge opportunity. For example, using 23% less packaging on just one line of multi-buy crisps removes 5 tonnes of packaging and 50,000 road miles. 

Reuse is where some of the most disruptive ideas on packaging are coming through, in the UK and globally – potentially offering the greatest changes. Tesco is increasing the range of products available in reusable packaging: Our partnership with Loop is already delivering products in reusable packaging throughout the country, and this partnership will extend into a selection of stores in 2021.

We will recycle everything that’s left by taking an industry leading approach and asking suppliers to use a defined list of easy to recycle materials and formats. Change at scale and pace can be transformational. But to close the loop on packaging, so it can be used, reused and collected continuously, we need a national collection and recycling infrastructure.

We’re ready to play our part. By working together, we can make a difference.

Remove

We have successfully removed one billion pieces of plastic. Working in partnership with suppliers, we have removed:

  • Plastic shrink wrap around branded and own-label tinned multi-packs e.g. soup, tinned tomatoes, sweetcorn
  • Secondary lids from yoghurts, fresh cream, picnic salads and baby wipes
  • Plastic wraps from branded and own label greetings cards
  • Small plastic bags used to pack loose fruit, vegetables and bakery items
  • Plastic from Christmas products and packaging e.g. crackers no longer contain plastic gifts

We first published a preferred material list in 2018 and have since removed all of the hardest to recycle materials from our own brand packaging. This has seen Tesco remove more than 11,000 tonnes of the hardest to recycle materials from over 1000 products. We’re now working with brands to do the same.

Reduce

We can’t overlook the fact that for too long, packaging on consumer goods has been excessive.

In August 2019, we met with 1,500 suppliers to let them know that packaging will form a key part of our decision-making process which determines which products are sold in stores. We made clear that we reserve the right to no longer stock products that use excessive or hard to recycle materials. We have since reduced our annual footprint by over 3500 tonnes and work goes on to ensure we use no more packaging than is necessary.

Reuse

In July, Tesco launched an online shopping service with Loop that delivers groceries in reusable packaging throughout the country. Customers are able to order 150 products including sauces, cereals and washing detergents in durable packaging that can be reused continuously. Each piece of packaging will be used many times so the service can help customers cut down on plastic and other single use materials.

Later this year we will introduce Loop into a selection of our stores. This builds on the success of other reuse initiatives such as ‘bring your own container’ and ‘reusable cup’ at counters and in our cafes.

Find out more information here.

Recycle

We’re changing our packaging to support a closed loop. This means using as much recycled content as possible and using materials and formats that are easy to recycle. Our industry leading approach has seen us ask suppliers to use a defined list of easy to recycle materials and formats. The packaging for over 1000 different products have already been improved as a part of our Remove, Reduce, Reuse, Recycle strategy.

We’re also exploring new technologies such as DRS and soft plastic recycling to make sure all the plastic we use can be recycled.

To close the loop so packaging can be used, re-used, collected and recycled continuously, we need a national collection and recycling infrastructure. We called on the Government to introduce this in January 2018 and offered to help by giving space in our car parks and testing the collection of materials not recycled by local councils – and this offer of help remains open today.

We will continue to make progress into 2021 and beyond.