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Tesco to launch UK’s biggest network of recycling points for soft plastic

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Tesco has begun rolling out soft plastic recycling points to 171 stores in the South West of England and Wales with plans to roll out to all large stores nationwide.

This will be the first time that the UK has had a network of collection points of this size dedicated to the collection of soft plastic.

Most councils don’t collect soft plastic from homes for recycling and it therefore often goes to landfill.

  • Tesco expects to collect and recycle 1000 tonnes a year, the equivalent of 150 million standard loaf bags
  • Soft plastic is not commonly collected by local councils and often thrown away

The collection points will enable customers to return all their previously unrecycled soft plastic, regardless of where they bought it, including cling film, pet food pouches and crisp packets to recycling points at their local store, rather than having to throw it away.

Once collected, the old soft plastic is sent for recycling where it is washed, sorted and processed before being turned into new packaging. It will be used into pack items such as food, household and beauty products.

The roll out follows an extremely successful 10-store trial where customers responded positively, returning more than 10 times the expected amount of plastic. The material has already been used to produce food-grade packaging for a selection of Tesco cheeses.

The most common items to be returned during the trial were:

  • Bread bags
  • Fruit and vegetable packaging
  • Crisp packets
  • Salad bags
  • Baby and pet food pouches

Tesco’s Director of Quality, Sarah Bradbury, said: “It is an absolute priority to remove and reduce as much plastic as possible and ensure everything we use is recycled and kept out of the environment. Where plastic serves an important purpose such as reducing food waste, these new recycling points make sure that every piece can be easily recycled. Trials have shown they are popular with customers, so we believe rolling them out at scale will have a real impact.

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Paula Chin, WWF Sustainable Materials Specialist said: “Plastic pollution is one of the most visible symptoms of the environmental crisis and is devastating our natural world. Businesses, governments and households have all got an important part to play in tackling the issue, so it’s encouraging to see Tesco extending their successful soft plastics collection trial across more of their stores, giving their customers even more opportunity to recycle these valuable materials.”

Tesco has made significant progress in addressing the impact of plastic waste through its 4Rs strategy: Remove, Reduce, Reuse, Recycle. Within this framework, Tesco prioritises using less plastic ahead of recycling: Tesco recently announced it hit its 2020 target to remove a billion pieces of plastic and had additionally reduced the size of plastic packaging by 3500 tonnes a year. It has also made significant steps to using more reusable packaging through its nationwide partnership with Loop.

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Soft plastic recycling facilities will help recycle remaining materials as a part of a closed loop: Tesco first started testing soft plastics recycling facilities in a ten-store trial in 2018, where it has since collected 120 tonnes of plastic for recycling.

The new soft plastic recycling sites are in all of the supermarket’s Swansea Bay stores, including Carmarthen, Milford Haven, Neath Abbey, Pembroke Dock, Pontarddulais, Llansamlet, Fforestfach, Swansea Marina, Port Talbot and Pontardawe.


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