Packaging Plastic Battle Retail Self-Regulation & Commitments

Tesco Communicates its Packaging Strategy and Guidelines for Suppliers

Tesco Launches Phase two of Remove, Reduce, Reuse & Recycle plan to suppliers.

Tesco has launched the second phase of its Remove, Reduce, Reuse & Recycle plan, which sets out four steps that will govern packaging design across all product categories.

  • Remove all non-recyclable and hard to recycle material
  • Where we can’t remove, reduce it to an absolute minimum, including excess packaging
  • Explore new opportunities to reuse it, and if we can’t
  • Ensure it is all recycled as part of a closed loop.

Since announcing its ambition in 2018 to remove hard-to-recycle materials, Tesco will have eliminated the hardest to recycle materials from own brand products by the end of 2019, by removing over 4,000 tonnes of materials from 8,000 lines.

The company is now working with branded suppliers to do the same.At four meetings with over 1,500 suppliers, Tesco set out its vision for the next stage of its packaging agenda. The retailer is committed to removing excess packaging from Tesco brand and branded products. Tesco also briefed suppliers that from next year, the size and suitability of packaging will be assessed as part of category reviews and ranging decisions.

Dave Lewis, Tesco Group CEO, said:

“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.”

Information shared at the supplier meetings included a case study from a branded crisp manufacturer showing the benefits of tackling excess packaging. By reducing the size of packaging on multi-buy crisps by 23%, the manufacturer delivered a reduction of 5,000 tonnes in packaging weight and 50,000 less road miles as pallets were packed more efficiently, reducing the number of lorry journeys.

Tesco also reiterated its call for the government to introduce a national collection and recycling infrastructure to deliver a closed loop for packaging.

Dave Lewis said:

“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”

Notes to editors

Hard to recycle materials

Tesco has been tracking the materials used in our packaging for many years and has already achieved a 31% reduction in packaging weight per unit sold since 2007.

In 2018, Tesco published a preferred materials list which categorised materials as ‘red, amber or green’ based on how easily recycled they are and committed to removing the hardest to recycle materials, ‘reds’, from Tesco brand packaging by the end of 2019.

Tesco has also committed to publishing an update on the ‘amber’ list in January 2019 which could see more materials removed from the business unless new ways of recycling are proven effective. 

Tesco packaging strategy

In 2018, Tesco set out three strategic priorities to help reduce packaging waste and boost recycling across the UK.


Tesco’s Approach

We take the sustainability of our products and packaging extremely seriously and always consider the environmental impact of our business on the environment. We know that packaging plays an important role in protecting products and reducing food waste – but it shouldn’t come at an unaffordable cost to the planet.

We only use packaging where it serves a clear purpose. We are working towards all remaining packaging becoming part of a closed loop – meaning no packaging will go to waste. We recognise that we can do more in partnership with government and industry to help establish a robust, closed loop system for packaging materials. We have three strategic priorities to help reduce packaging waste and boost recycling across the UK.

1. Materials and design

We ensure our packaging is designed to be used, reused, and then recycled or re-purposed so that we make efficient use of valuable resources and minimise environmental impact. We have set targets to reduce packaging weight and committed to remove all hard to recycle materials from our Own Brand packaging by the end of 2019. We are working with our suppliers to simplify the types of materials we use in our packaging so that less is used and packaging is easier to recycle.

2. Recovery and recycling

Simplifying the materials we use in packaging is just the first step towards closed loop recycling. Next, we need to collect and recycle those materials back into packaging. We would welcome the creation of an integrated national collection of packaging and investment in innovative recycling facilities. We will continue to work collaboratively with government, suppliers and industry to build on this.

3. Changing customer behaviour

Helping individuals to make the right choices can start with simple, clear and consistent information on packaging supported by other media. We can use marketing and promotions to encourage recycling, use of own containers, and choice of packaging purchase.

The UK Plastics Pact

Tesco are signatories of the UK Plastics Pact which brings together businesses from across the entire plastics value chain. Members and partners are at the forefront of generating a fundamental change in the way we design, produce, use, re-use, dispose and reprocess plastics. The Tesco Head of Packaging sits on the Plastics Pact advisory board.


  • Plastic Battle? Yeah, they try to influence the debate by coming up with their toolbox
  • Tesco Seems to be pushing “recycling” high on its agenda. Their strategy looks a bit old fashioned, as if it came straight from the eighties.
  • Mater-Bi and cellulose goes into the amber zone.
  • PLA goes on the red list (materials to be avoided). They don’t say why.
  • Black plastic in the amber zone?
  • There’s a new kid on the block when to comes to recycling. It’s called Loop.

Ladies and Gentlemen, don’t forget to do your duty….the next plastic battlefield



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