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Tesco – the plastics removal billionaire

Tesco, the UK’s largest supermarket chain, has pledged to remove one billion pieces of plastic from in-store products by the end of next year.
It has announced that it informed more than 1,500 suppliers of its intentions in August, stating that cutting plastic is a “key part of its decision-making process which determines which products are sold in its stores”.

It plans to remove small plastic bags used to pack loose fruit, vegetables and bakery items and replace them with paper made ones by the end of 2020, along with eliminating plastic trays from ready meals. Tesco will also stop using “secondary lids” on products such as cream, yogurts and cereals, and cut out forks and straws on snack pots and drinks cartons.
Finally, it will remove 200 million pieces of plastic used to pack clothing and greetings cards.

Tesco is running the initiative under its so-called 4Rs strategy – remove, reduce, reuse, recycle – where it will eliminate non-recyclable and excess packaging. If plastics cannot be removed, such as an instance where it prevents food waste, the retail chain will work with suppliers to reduce it to an “absolute minimum”.

Chief executive Dave Lewis, who recently announced he will step down as Tesco CEO next summer, said: “Our work to remove, reduce, reuse and recycle is already transforming our packaging. Over the next 12 months, we will remove one billion pieces of plastic, further reducing the environmental impact of the products we sell.

“By focusing on solutions that we can apply across all our UK stores and supply chain, we can make a significant difference and achieve real scale in our efforts to tackle plastic.”

The chain said it plans to explore avenues to reuse packaging and recycle any leftovers. “If packaging can’t be recycled, it will have no place at Tesco,” it said.

It has also made it clear to suppliers “that it reserves the right to no longer stock products that use excessive or hard-to-recycle materials”.

Retail is raising the bar on plastics. Foodservice operators should be ready for their customers expectations to be raised.

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