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.
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.
We have made significant progress to date, for example, we have:
- Removed plastic-wrapped multipacks, replacing them with plastic-free multibuys, removing 1.5 million pieces of plastic wrap each year from tinned tomatoes, tuna, sweetcorn etc.
- Worked with suppliers to remove soak pads from meat, fish and poultry products, where possible. Per annum, this means the reduction of approx. 155 tonnes of non-recyclable packaging from our operations.
- Achieved our goal to remove all single use plastic straws from Tesco own-label products by end-March 2020. We also removed single-use cutlery.
- Removed 359 tonnes of PVC and 40 tonnes of Polystyrene materials from product packaging per annum, along with approximately 19 tonnes of MDF and 18 tonnes of plywood.
- All Tesco Christmas crackers were free of plastic in 2020 and will be for Christmas 2021.
- Removed the plastic chip from two Tesco Rice Cake lines - Salt & Vinegar and Lightly Salted- removing over 4.31 million pieces of plastic.
- Removed 7.1 tonnes of plastic from the Tesco Irish Cheddar Cheese range.
- Worked with suppliers - such as Hilton, Manor Farm, O’Brien Fine Foods, Carroll Cuisine and Ballymaguire Foods - to introduce detectable black plastic trays - meaning that these black trays can now be detected in recycling machines and recycled. Approximately 448 tonnes of plastic are now converted to detectable black plastic and we have replaced approx. 97 tonnes of black trays with recyclable clear trays where a detectable black tray could not be sourced, meaning almost 550 tonnes of non-recyclable plastic per annum is now recyclable.
- Removed 170 tonnes of packaging by reducing the weight and moving to a single piece cap for Tesco Slievenamon Water.
- Moved Tesco own label Cat & Dog food packaging from plastic shrink wrapped outers to card, enabling customers to recycle all packaging at kerbside and switched all Tesco core cat food bags to paper solutions to make them recyclable at kerbside.
- Moved Tesco own label Golden Granulated Sugar & Tesco Golden Caster Sugar from plastic bags to paper bags, enabling customers to recycle all packaging at kerbside.
- 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.
- 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.
- Introduced on-pack recycling information to all our own label products.
In May 2021, in collaboration with our partners at Country Crest, we became the first retailer in Ireland to make our packaging for 1kg new season potatoes fully recyclable, while also reducing the amount of paper used in our 2.5kg potato packaging. This move reduced the amount of paper used in our 2.5kg new season potatoes bag by 30% and removed almost 50,000 non-recyclable 1kg new season plastic bags from the waste system.
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 do not accept 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, have been rolled out to all stores 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 these soft plastics are recycled, rather than sent to landfill or incinerated.