Waste clampdown

Tesco to remove a billion plastic items from products

Plastic waste campaign by John Cobb Greenpeace, not for general use

Campaigners dumped packaging at checkouts in a demonstration last year (pic: Greenpeace)

Tesco is to remove a billion pieces of plastic packaging from products in its 3,787 stores by the end of next year.

Plastic bags to pack loose fruit, vegetables and bakery products will be replaced by paper bags.

Ready meals will no longer be sold in plastic trays, while secondary lids on products such as yoghurts and cream will be removed along with plastic cutlery, straws on drinking cartons and 200 million wrappers on clothing and greeting cards.

Britain’s biggest supermarket chain has already told 1,500 suppliers that packaging will be a key factor in selecting products and that it could refuse to stock items that use materials that are difficult to recycle.

The announcement is part of a reaction to growing consumer concern over mounting plastic waste. More than eight million tonnes of plastic is thrown away each year, much of it being washed out to sea and being eaten by birds and fish.

In a protest last year campaigners led by Greenpeace left disposable packaging at checkouts with notes to store managers calling for action to reduce excessive throwaway wrapping.

Tesco chief executive Dave Lewis said: “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 company’s latest move was welcomed by Greenpeace, although Louise Edge, head of its ocean plastics campaign, said Tesco used more than 18 billion pieces of plastic last year, “so they’ve still got plenty of work to do”.

What are others doing?

– In September, Sainsbury’s promised to halve the amount of plastic used in its stores by 2025.

– High street health and beauty chain Boots has switched to paper bags in a move that will take 40 million plastic carriers a year out of circulation.

– One of Scotland’s largest indoor shopping malls, The Centre, in Livingston, became the first mall in the UK to provide shoppers with the option to buy a reusable paper carrier bag.

– Miniature toiletries will no longer be offered to guests staying at hotels run by InterContinental Hotels Group.

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