Supermarket giant Tesco has warned suppliers that it may stop stocking products packaged in materials that are hard-to-recycle or cannot be recycled through current infrastructure.
The announcement forms a part of the second phase of the retailer’s ‘Remove, Reduce & Recycle’ plan which was launched today (22 August).
Tesco said that it has briefed suppliers that from 2020 the ‘size and suitability’ of packaging will be assessed as part of decisions over whether to stock certain products in its stores.
The retailer will reserve the right not to list products sold in packaging that is deemed to be “excessive or inappropriate”, the retailer’s chief executive, Dave Lewis warned.
The move follows steps that Tesco says it has put in place to reduce the amount of ‘hard to recycle’ material used in its own-brand products. This has included removing PVC packaging for some of its meat products, and polystyrene from pizza packaging.
“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.”
According to Tesco, since these steps were implemented last summer, it has removed around 4,000 tonnes of ‘hard to recycle’ materials from around 8,000 own-brand product lines.
Mr Lewis commented: “In the first quarter of 2018 we audited all packaging materials in our business and set ourselves a challenge to remove all hard to recycle material by 2019; we’re on track for Tesco own brand and we’re working with branded suppliers to deliver the same.
“Now we’re taking the next step and tackling excess packaging. 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. Through the lens of Remove, Reduce, Reuse & Recycle we can transform our approach to packaging.”
Tesco also today reiterated its call for the government to introduce a “national collection and recycling infrastructure” for packaging.
This echoes a recent call from the retail sector in support of a consistent system for the collection of packaging waste from households as well as efforts to make recycling labelling clearer (see letsrecycle.com story).
Mr Lewis said that the retailer would offer space at its outlets for the collection of materials that are not commonly recycled by local authorities.
He added: “Without a national infrastructure, industry efforts to improve the recyclability of materials used in packaging will be a drop in the ocean.
“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 and the need for action has never been more pressing.”
Friends of the Earth
Tesco’s commitment to challenge suppliers over packaging has been welcomed by the green group Friends of the Earth, with campaigner Carrie Hume urging other retailers to follow suit.
She commented: “Tesco’s plans to significantly cut its waste, with an emphasis on removing, reducing and reusing its packaging, is encouraging news – and something every retailer and manufacturer should be doing. It’s a no brainer move that makes both economic and environmental sense.
“Ministers must act too by forcing firms to minimise the unwanted waste they pass on to their customers, and adopt practices that make environmental considerations a priority.”