24 August 2021

Tesco completes roll out of soft plastic collection points in the UK

Shoppers at all of Tesco’s large stores in the UK will be able to bring back any soft plastic packaging for recycling, the supermarket expects to collect and recycle 1,000 tonnes of plastic a year.

© Simone Hutsch/Unsplash

Commonly collected by local councils for recycling and often thrown away, Tesco aims to recycle the soft plastic packaging back into products and packaging sold in stores.

The national roll-out was brought forward by Tesco in response to overwhelming customer support during the 171-store trial earlier this year in Wales and the south-west, where close to a tonne of soft plastic was collected a day.

In the trial stores, 85% of customers said it helped them to recycle more than they would have done otherwise.

Customers also reported that they like the convenience of being able to combine recycling with their shopping.

The collection points will allow customers to return all their previously unrecycled soft plastic, such as the clear film used to wrap meat and fish, crisp packets, fruit and veg bags and sweet wrappers, rather than having to throw it away.

Most councils don’t collect soft plastic from homes for recycling so it typically goes to waste.

The most common items to be returned during the trial were:

  • Bread bags
  • Fruit and vegetable packaging
  • Crisp packets
  • Salad bags

‘We’re tackling the impact of plastics by removing and reducing it as much as possible, helping customers move to reusable alternatives, and ensuring they can recycle everything that’s left,’ says Tesco’s Director of Quality, Sarah Bradbury.

Once collected by Tesco, the old soft plastic is sent for recycling where it is washed, sorted and as much of the material as possible is recycled into new products and packaging.

Tesco directs the collected material between recyclers, packaging producers and suppliers. Tesco will keep the collected material out of landfill.

In a recent sample, Tesco was able to recover over 80% of the soft plastic returned by customers. It is now working with recyclers to explore what can be done with the remaining 20%, which is currently sent for energy recovery. 

Marcus Gover, CEO of WRAP, adds, ‘Tackling plastic bags and wrapping is the UK Plastics Pact’s number one priority, and increasing front of store collection points is a great step forward.

‘As little as 6% of this problematic plastic is collected and recycled in the UK, despite making up nearly a quarter of all plastic packaging by weight.’

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