Out with the old: Tesco eliminated one billion plastic items during 2020

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Photo courtesy of Tesco

Throughout the UK, many retailers have made it a mission to try to curtail the use of plastics in their stores and throughout their businesses. 

One supermarket chain that has done especially well is Tesco, which recently announced that it had removed one billion pieces of plastic in the past 12 months alone. 

From ditching small plastic bags that were used to gather loose fruits and vegetables to cutting shrink wrap from branded and own-label items, Tesco has made a powerful stand in trying to help spare the environment of potentially harmful materials. 

“Plastic pollution continues to be one of the most visible symptoms of the environmental crisis we’re currently facing," said Paula Chin, Sustainable Materials Specialist, WWF. "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.”

Tesco officials say the plastic-elimination initiative is based on a four-pillar strategy - Remove, Reduce, Reuse and Recycle. Although made more challenging by the COVID-19 pandemic, the retailer nonetheless managed to find ways to perform all of those tasks in the past year.

“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," Tesco Quality Director, Sarah Bradbury, said. "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."

The retailer has made that clear to 1,500 wholesalers as well, saying that it may make future decisions on carrying certain products based on the amount of plastics that are used. Tesco said "it reserves the right to no longer stock products that use excessive packaging or hard to recycle materials."

In addition to the fruit and veg bags, Tesco also worked to cut back on plastics in the following areas:

  • 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
  • Plastic from Christmas products 

Earlier this year, Tesco eliminated plastic wrapped multipacks from its stores and also launched an online shopping service with Loop that delivers groceries in reusable packaging.

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