Tesco removes one billion pieces of plastic

Tesco has today announced that it has removed one billion pieces of plastic from its UK business in just one year.

  • In 2020, by working with its suppliers, plastic that Tesco has removed includes:
    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

The one billion target was part of Tesco’s commitment to tackle plastics through its 4Rs packaging strategy: To remove it where it can, reduce where it can’t, reuse more and recycle what’s left. The strategy has seen a business-wide programme of change that assesses every piece of packaging and removes all unnecessary and non-recyclable material.

Tesco Quality Director, Sarah Bradbury, said:

“Our own-label and branded suppliers have had a lot to contend with in 2020 so removing a billion pieces of plastic is fantastic progress. Our work to Remove, Reduce, Reuse and Recycle will continue into 2021 – there is no place for unnecessary or non-recyclable packaging in our business.

Paula Chin, Sustainable Materials Specialist, WWF said:

“Plastic pollution continues to be one of the most visible symptoms of the environmental crisis we’re currently facing. Businesses, governments and households have all got an important part to play, so it’s encouraging to see Tesco delivering against their commitments to significantly reduce the amount of plastic we use. We look forward to welcoming further initiatives of this scale in 2021 and beyond.”

In early 2020, Tesco became the first UK retailer to remove plastic wrapped multipacks from its stores and sell loose cans at the same price, a change that has saved 67 million pieces of plastic annually. In July, Tesco launched an online shopping service with Loop that delivers groceries in reusable packaging throughout the country.

Tesco has also met with 1,500 suppliers to let them know that packaging will form a key part of its decision-making process which determines what products are sold in stores. The retailer made it clear that it reserves the right to no longer stock products that use excessive packaging or hard to recycle materials.

Notes to editors

  • Top five Tesco initiatives that Removed plastic:
    Removing multipack wraps from own label and branded tins, like Heinz Beans, cut 67 million pieces of plastic from Tesco’s annual totals.
  • Tesco worked with greeting cards supplier Hallmark to remove plastic covers from own-label and branded cards – a move which saved 44 million pieces of plastic a year.
  • Removing secondary lids from products saved over a hundred million pieces of plastic: 54 million pieces from baby wipes, 34 million from pots of cream, 34 million from salads.
  • Tesco removed over 20 million pieces of plastic from its 2020 Christmas range. Crackers, lights, cards and puddings have all been produced using less single use plastic.
  • Removing plastic trays from sausage rolls and slices saved over 24 million pieces of plastic.

Since the launch of the 4Rs strategy in August 2019, and in addition to Removing a billion pieces of plastic, Tesco has Reduced the size of its annual packaging footprint by 3,480 tonnes. Fruit juices, crisps and cheese are now being produced using less plastic.

The retailer’s partnership with Loop has given customers the opportunity to purchase a wide range of products in Reusable packaging. Since it was launched in June, the scalable reusable packaging service has delivered thousands of orders to 526 different towns and cities across the country.

Tesco has also made good progress improving the Recyclability of its packaging. Since Tesco took an industry leading approach and asked suppliers to use a defined list of easy to recycle materials and formats in May 2018, it has removed over 11,000 tonnes of the hardest to recycle materials.


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