Tesco takes soft plastic packaging recycling points nationwide


Tesco has announced a fresh effort to tackle soft plastic waste, confirming that all its large stores are to feature new plastic recycling collection points.

Many councils do not collect soft plastics for recycling, including common items such as plastic bags, cling film, and many forms of food packaging. The lack of dedicated soft plastic recycling services has been blamed for higher levels of waste and causing confusion amongst consumers as to which plastics can be recycled.

Now Tesco has become the latest major supermarket to try and provide its own soft plastic recycling service, announcing that from today collection points will be available in all its large stores.

The company said it expects to collect more than 1,000 tonnes a year and will recycle as much of this material as possible back into products and packaging sold in Tesco stores.

Tesco added that the national roll-out was brought forward in response to "overwhelming customer support" during a 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 per cent of customers said the collection points helped them 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, Tesco said.

The most common items to be returned during the trial were items that are commonly not recycled by local authorities, including bread bags, fruit and vegetable packaging, crisp packets, and salad bags.

A recent sample taken from the trial found that Tesco was able to recover over 80 per cent of the soft plastic returned by customers for recycling. The company said it was now working with recyclers to explore what can be done with the remaining 20 per cent, which is currently sent for energy recovery. 

"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," said Tesco's director of quality, Sarah Bradbury. "I'm delighted that we're rolling out collection points to the whole of the country so even more customers can help us stop plastic from going to waste."

The new service was welcomed by Marcus Gover, CEO of waste charity WRAP. "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," he said.

"As little as six per cent of this problematic plastic is collected and recycled in the UK, despite making up nearly a quarter of all plastic packaging by weight. By offering shoppers a simple and consistent collections system, Tesco is helping to ensure that much more of this problem plastic is captured and goes on to be recycled."