Tesco promises to remove 1 billion pieces of plastic by 2020

A Tesco Express store. Photo: Lewis Stickley/PA Archive/PA Images
Tesco has warned suppliers it won't stock their products that use excessive or hard-to-recycle materials. Photo: Lewis Stickley/PA

Tesco will remove 1 billion pieces of plastic packaging from its stores by the end of 2020, it has announced.

Last year, Tesco said it wanted to remove hard-to-recycle materials from it’s stores. On Friday, it said it will have eliminated the hardest-to-recycle materials from its own-brand products by the end of the year, by removing over 4,000 tonnes of materials from 800 lines. It said it is also working with branded suppliers on this.

Tesco said it will remove non-recyclable and excess packaging from its business.

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This includes plastic trays from ready meals, secondary lids on products such as cream, yoghurts and cereals, sporks and straws from snack pots and drinks cartons, and over 200 million pieces of plastic used to pack clothing and greetings cards.

The supermarket said that where plastic packaging can’t be removed, for example where it prevents food waste, it will work with its suppliers to reduce it to an “absolute minimum”.

In August, Tesco met with 1,500 suppliers to let them know that packaging will form a “key part” of its decision-making process which determines which products are sold in its stores. It informed them that it “reserves the right to no longer stock products that use excessive or hard-to-recycle materials”.

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“If packaging can’t be recycled, it will have no place at Tesco,” the company said in a statement.

Tesco already stopped offering carrier bags with online deliveries, earlier this year, which means 250 million fewer plastic bags will be produced annually.

The supermarket also began trialling technology that could make all plastic packaging recyclable, earlier this year.

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Our work to remove, reduce, reuse and recycle is already transforming our packaging. Over the next 12 months, we will remove one billion pieces of plastic, further reducing the environmental impact of the products we sell,” said Dave Lewis, Tesco CEO.

“By focusing on solutions that we can apply across all our UK stores and supply chain, we can make a significant difference and achieve real scale in our efforts to tackle plastic.”

Paula Chin, sustainable materials specialist at conservation charity WWF UK, said: “Plastic pollution is the most visible symptom of the environmental crisis we’re currently facing. Businesses, governments and households have all got an important part to play, so it’s good to see Tesco’s commitment to significantly reduce the amount of plastic we use.”