Ireland |

Packaging

At Tesco, our target is to ensure we never use more packaging than is needed. Where we need packaging, because it serves a clear purpose like reducing food waste or to protect a product in transit, we do our best to ensure that what we do use is from sustainable sources and where possible, goes on to be reused or recycled.

We are a member of Repak which has led the way in improving recycling levels in Ireland and we are proud signatories of the Repak Plastics Pledge.

Packaging commitments

We have set challenging targets that will deliver a step change in how much packaging waste we generate. In 2019, we launched our Packaging Commitments to 2025, which included:

  • all packaging on Tesco own-label products will be fully recyclable by 2025;
  • packaging weight on all own-label products will be halved;
  • end the use of hard to recycle materials (Polystyrene PVDC & PVC) from own-label product packaging; 
  • remove single-use plastic cutlery from food-to-go offerings and remove single-use plastic straws from own-label products;
  • all paper and board used will be 100% sustainable by 2025; and
  • we will halve packaging by weight by 2025.

We have also committed to including recycling information on all own-label packaging to help our customers to understand what can be and cannot be recycled.

Progress

We have made significant progress to date:

  • On-pack recycling information has been introduced on all own label products.
  • From March 2020, we removed plastic-wrapped multipacks, sold across our 151 stores and online, replacing them with plastic-free multibuys. This eliminates the plastic film which cannot currently be accepted in Irish household recycling collections and will see 1.5 million multipacks of Tesco own-label and branded tinned beans, tuna, soup, and tomatoes sold without plastic wrap each year. This move resulted in almost 10 tonnes of single use plastic no longer being produced each year.
  • Our goal to remove all single use plastic straws from Tesco own-label products was achieved by end-March 2020. Single-use cutlery was also removed.
  • All Tesco Christmas crackers were free of plastic in 2020 and will be for Christmas 2021.
  • We have worked hard with our Tesco-brand suppliers in Ireland to remove soak pads from meat, fish and poultry products, where possible. To date, through our joint efforts, the removal of soak pads has resulted in the reduction of approx. 155 tonnes of non-recyclable packaging from our operations.
  • Tesco was the first retailer to introduce recyclable black plastic trays - meaning that the black trays can now be detectable in recycling centres and can then be further recycled. Approx. 448 tonnes of plastic is now converted to detectable black plastic. To achieve this, Tesco has worked with five own-label suppliers: Hilton, Manor Farm, O’Brien Fine Foods, Carroll Cuisine & Ballymaguire Foods. We also moved approx. 97 tonnes of black trays to clear trays where a detectable black tray could not be sourced.
  • We have removed polystyrene from the pots of Tesco Fresh Cream, from the sleeve used on some dairy products and from boxes and trays used on counter fish products. This will result in a full-year removal of approx. 40 tonnes of polystyrene from our packaging per annum.
  • We have removed PVC from the base tray and films used in several Tesco cooked meats and produce packaging, resulting in a full-year removal of approx. 359 tonnes of non-recyclable plastic from our packaging.
  • We have removed 170 tonnes of packaging by reducing the weight and moving to a single piece cap for Tesco Slievenamon Water, and we have removed 5 tonnes of plastic by moving our Tesco 1kg bag of porridge from a plastic bag to a paper bag, making the bag 100% recyclable.
  • Other examples of our plastic removal include:
    • The plastic clip has been removed from two Rice Cake lines removing over 4.31 million pieces of plastic.
    • 7.1 tonnes of plastic was removed from the Tesco Irish Cheddar Cheese Range.

In 2020, we launched a new ‘Red, Amber & Green’ packaging preferred materials list, with the addition of more ‘hard to recycle materials’ such as Plywood & MDF, Glitter, Composite Drums, Paper & Board coated or laminated on both sides. These items have now been removed from our own-label products. We are committed to not accepting any new products that contain packaging included on our Red list of materials.

We have also developed a secondary packaging document to help suppliers deliver reductions in secondary packaging. This was launched to all suppliers at the most recent supplier conference in September 2020.

In 2021, we continue to use our Red, Amber, Green list of preferred materials and work in conjunction with our suppliers to continue making their packaging more easily recyclable, and further remove hard-to-recycle materials.

Our packaging plans will also continue to be based on our 4R approach – Reduce, Remove, Recycle, Reuse. The 4R strategy is based on the following:

  • Remove all non- recyclable and hard to recycle materials
  • Reduce packaging where we can
  • Look for opportunities to reuse packaging
  • Ensuring all packaging is recyclable


This 4R approach allows us to deliver and communicate a clear message to our customers on our achievements - by applying the relevant ‘R’ logos to our packaging.

Soft plastics recycling solution

We are really proud to be the first retailer in Ireland to create a recycling solution for soft plastics. 

In-store collection points, like the one pictured above, will be rolled out to all stores by March 2021 and customers can simply remove unwanted soft plastic packaging - such as cling wrap or outer wrap from water bottle multi-packs - at the end of their shopping trip.  Customers can also leave behind hard, recyclable plastic packaging, such as multi-pack fresh produce packaging, which will be recycled as normal.

Partnering with Irish manufacturing company, Paltech, these plastics will then be flaked and prepared for processing into construction materials to be used in our store network - for example as car-park barriers and signage. Waste plastic processed in this way has already been used to produce the in-store collection points.

As we work towards our 2025 packaging targets, this announcement is an important step in ensuring that soft plastics are recycled, rather than sent to landfill or incinerated.