Tesco expands soft plastic collection scheme

Supermarket chain Tesco yesterday (23 August) announced the roll out of soft plastic collection points to every large store in the UK.

The points can now be found at every large Tesco store in the UK

It follows “overwhelming customer support” during the 171-store trial launched earlier this year in Wales and the South West, where close to a tonne of soft plastic was collected per day.

Under the scheme, the supermarket expects to collect more than 1,000 tonnes of soft plastic a year, which will be sent for recycling.

Tesco said that it will work with its recycling partner to ensure that as “much of this material as possible” is made back into products and packaging sold in its stores.

The supermarket did not disclose who the recycling partner was, but has previously partnered with Leicestershire-based Eurokey Recycling to recycle soft plastic under a scheme in 2015 (see letsrecycle.com story).

Soft plastic

By rolling out soft collection points, the supermarket chain joins a number of other supermarket chains to have announced schemes.

Last month, the Co-op introduced a similar soft plastic collections system, and sends the material to Jayplas (see letsrecycle.com story).

Sainsbury’s also expanded its scheme, first launched in February 2021, two months ago (see letsrecycle.com story).

For the initial scheme, it partnered with Eurokey Recycling, which will mechanically recycle all polyethylene (PE) and PP film from Sainsbury’s front of store collections from customers and back of store operations.

Sainsbury’s has yet to confirm where the plastic will be recycled for the wider scheme.

Sample

In a blog post about the tesco trial last month, James Bull, head of packaging at the company,  said the supermarket was able to “recover over 80% of the soft plastic returned by customers”. He said he is now working with recyclers to explore what can be done with the remaining 20%, which is currently sent for energy recovery.

Mr Bull said some of the collected soft plastic has already been recycled into food grade packaging for Tesco own brand cheeses and sold in store.

He added: “We are currently exploring other products and packaging that the recycled soft plastic can be used in, considering a range of environmental impacts as we develop solutions. We’ll continue to share updates as and when these items are available in our stores”.

Mr Bull added that Tesco “oversees the process of collection, transportation and recycling to minimise the environmental impact” of the material. The retailer says it “directs and monitors the collected material to selected recyclers” and works with partners to bring it back into its supply chain wherever possible.

Points

WRAP has called for more supermarkets to recycle plastic bags

The collection points will allow customers to return all soft plastic, such as the clear film used to wrap meat and fish, crisp packets, fruit and veg bags and sweet wrappers.

The most common items seen in the trial were bread bags, fruit and vegetable packaging, crisp packets and salad bags.

Tesco’s director of quality, Sarah Bradbury, said: “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. 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.”

‘Priority’

It follows recent calls from resources charity WRAP, which urged businesses to start collection plastic bags for sorting and recycling (see letsrecycle.com story).

The charity launched guidance to help retailers introduce consistent collections for flexible plastic packaging and help divert more from landfill or incineration.

Quality

Meanwhile Recoup last week raised concern about the quality of the material, and said the topic will feature at its annual conference in September.

Robbie Staniforth, innovation & policy director at Ecosurety, who is due to speak in the session, commented: “There are many obvious challenges with increasing the amount of flexible plastic packaging recycled, such as the varying nature of the material. However, the concerted industry focus in this area has opened up an array of opportunities for collecting, sorting, and reprocessing.

“With the Government citing the introduction of mandatory household collections in the coming years, the Flexible Plastics Fund provides funding to scale up reprocessing in the interim.”

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