Reducing our plastic waste has become a major part of tackling environmental damage and climate change. Despite this, many manufacturers and retailers are still selling products in excessive amounts of packaging. When packaging is also non-recyclable, the waste mounts up even faster. Documenting its devastating effect on wildlife has spurred consumers to change behaviours. Supermarkets like Tesco are following both consumer demand and corporate responsibility to increase sustainable packaging.
Why is Tesco banning packaging?
Back in May of 2018, Tesco gave its suppliers a list of preferable packaging materials. However, the packaging of many products is still excessive, and contains non-recyclable materials to boot. In its latest annual report, Tesco admitted that 13% of its own-brand packaging is still hard to recycle. They are aiming to remove this by the end of 2019. Trials are underway at a Tesco Extra store in Cambridge to determine the most effective waste reduction measures, which they will eventually implement in Tesco stores across the UK. One of the measures which Tesco plans to implement from 2020 is no longer stocking any products with excessive packaging. This packaging pan will force suppliers to change their own measures. Tesco plans to assess the size and suitability of packaging and reserves the right to refuse to stock products if their packaging is inappropriate. This is just one part of Tesco’s multi-phase “Remove, Reduce, Re-use & Recycle” plan. Many people are praising the continuous progress in this area.
What does Tesco say about the packaging ban?
Dave Lewis, the CEO of Tesco, announced the packaging ban as part of an article in The Guardian. Tesco’s plan involves removing unnecessary packaging or reducing it a minimum, as well as finding ways to reuse packaging or ensure that they recycle it. They aim to find re-usable or recyclable packaging alternatives where the packaging is necessary to prevent food waste, which is yet another problem impacting the environment. In the past year, Tesco says that changes to 800 of their own-brand products had resulted in saving 4,000 tonnes of waste packaging. They estimate that scrapping multipack tins could remove 490 tonnes of waste plastic. On top of this, getting rid of beer can binders and sporks, as well as plastic bags, will remove almost 350 million unnecessary plastic items. Tesco wants to “close the loop” on the packaging and is still encouraging the UK government to work with them towards introducing a national infrastructure for recycling. They will work with suppliers to adjust packaging levels.
How is this changing the food retail industry?
Though Tesco’s measures have been getting a lot of media coverage, they are not the only retailers making a change. Morrisons and Waitrose are trialling refill stations to cut out packaging completely. Sainsbury’s plans to remove plastic bags for loose fruit, vegetables, and bakery items. Iceland is aiming to make its own-brand products plastic-free within 5 years. However, Tesco is also pushing for the UK government to standardise recycling across the country. Recycling rates for local authorities vary from 65% to as low as 14%. The national rate of recycling has been an average of 45% since 2013. This is not acceptable and does not allow recycling to be as impactful as it needs to be on reducing waste. Tesco is also joining the Terracycle Loop scheme to help increase packaging re-use. Other large companies partnering with the Loop scheme include Coca Cola, Unilever, and Mondelēz.