In an effort to target plastic pollution, Tesco will ban the sale of products from brands that use excessive packaging.
The UK’s largest supermarket chain is launching the second phase of its Remove, Reduce, Reuse, and Recycle initiative. The program removes non-recyclable and unnecessary packaging, reduces excess packaging, identified reuse opportunities, and implements a closed-loop recycling system.
Tesco has already removed 4,000 tonnes of hard-to-recycle materials from its own-brand products. The chain is now looking at other brands now, too. It will judge whether they use unreasonable amounts of packaging. If excessive, the supermarket says it may discontinue the offending products.
“From next year, we will assess packaging as part of our ranging decisions, and if it’s excessive or inappropriate, we reserve the right not to list it,” Dave Lewis, Tesco Group CEO, wrote in a piece for the Guardian. “We’ll look at this category by category so every product is treated fairly and we’ll give sufficient time to make these changes.”
Lewis says all sectors must work together to address the “urgent” issue of plastic pollution. Plastic products take years to break down. Some items, like plastic bags, can take up to 1,000 years to decompose, according to the EPA. Plastic waste can end up in the ocean, where it harms and kills sea life.
Steps Toward Sustainability
Small systemic shifts can drastically reduce plastic waste. Tesco stopped including plastic bags in its home delivery orders this month, helping to remove 250 million bags a year.
A case study discussed at a meeting with Tesco and more than 1,500 of its suppliers showed that a crisp manufacturer was able to reduce waste by 5,000 tonnes by reducing the size of its multi-buy crisp packaging by 23 per cent.
More efficient packing of delivery pallets helped to reduce lorry transportation by 50,000 miles.
Tesco has also urged the government to create a UK-wide collection and recycling system to close the loop on packaging so that it is used, reused, collected, and recycled continuously. “Without a national infrastructure, industry efforts to improve the recyclability of materials used in packaging will be a drop in the ocean,” Lewis said.
“In January 2018, we called on the government to introduce this infrastructure and offered to help, including giving space in our car parks for recycling and testing the collection of materials not currently recycled by local councils. That invitation stands. The need for action has never been more pressing,” he said.
Lewis added, “If we don’t work together, we will miss the opportunity to tackle one of the biggest challenges facing us.”