• Tesco completes roll out of soft plastic collection points and expects to collect and recycle 1000 tonnes of plastic a year
  • Soft plastics are not commonly collected by local councils for recycling and often thrown away

From today, shoppers at all of Tesco’s large stores will be able to bring back any soft plastic packaging for recycling. The supermarket expects to collect more than 1000 tonnes a year and will recycle as much of this material as possible back into products and packaging sold in Tesco stores.

The national roll-out was brought forward by Tesco in response to overwhelming customer support during the 171-store trial earlier this year in Wales and the South West, where close to a tonne of soft plastic was collected a day. In the trial stores, 85% of customers said it helped them to recycle more than they would have done otherwise. Customers also reported that they like the convenience of being able to combine recycling with their shopping.

The collection points will allow customers to return all their previously unrecycled soft plastic, such as the clear film used to wrap meat and fish, crisp packets, fruit and veg bags and sweet wrappers, rather than having to throw it away. Most councils don’t collect soft plastic from homes for recycling so it typically goes to waste.

The most common items to be returned during the trial were:

  • Bread bags
  • Fruit and vegetable packaging
  • Crisp packets
  • Salad bags

Tesco’s Director of Quality, Sarah Bradbury, said: “We’re tackling the impact of plastics by removing and reducing it as much as possible, helping customers move to reusable alternatives, and ensuring they can recycle everything that’s left. I’m delighted that we’re rolling out collection points to the whole of the country so even more customers can help us stop plastic from going to waste.”

Marcus Gover, CEO WRAP, said: “Tackling plastic bags and wrapping is the UK Plastics Pact’s number one priority, and increasing front of store collection points is a great step forward. As little as six per cent of this problematic plastic is collected and recycled in the UK, despite making up nearly a quarter of all plastic packaging by weight. By offering shoppers a simple and consistent collections system Tesco is helping to ensure that much more of this problem plastic is captured and goes on to be recycled. I welcome this move which will help considerably towards the UK Plastics Pact’s target of increasing plastic recycling.”

Once collected by Tesco, the old soft plastic is sent for recycling where it is washed, sorted and as much of the material as possible is recycled into new products and packaging. Tesco directs the collected material between recyclers, packaging producers and suppliers. Tesco will keep the collected material out of landfill.

In a recent sample, Tesco was able to recover over 80% of the soft plastic returned by customers. It is now working with recyclers to explore what can be done with the remaining 20%, which is currently sent for energy recovery.

Tesco has made significant progress in addressing the impact of plastic waste through its 4Rs strategy: Remove, Reduce, Reuse, Recycle. Within this framework, Tesco prioritises using less plastic ahead of recycling: Tesco hit its 2020 target to remove a billion pieces of plastic, will remove a further half a billion pieces this year and had additionally reduced the size of packaging by 2000 tonnes a year. It has also made significant steps to using more reusable packaging through its nationwide partnership with Loop.

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