Tesco to scrap plastic-wrapped tinned multipacks

Tesco has announced that it will be replacing its plastic-wrapped multipacks of tinned food with permanent multibuy deals to reduce plastic waste, removing 350 tonnes of plastic from its products.

From now on, all the supermarket's tinned foods will be sold with no plastic wrap holding them together, though they will still be eligible for the multibuy deals for the same number of tinned items, meaning there will be no price change for the consumer.

Currently, 183,000 tinned multipacks are bought everyday at Tesco, with more than 40 per cent of Tesco customers including multipacks in their shop, most frequently baked beans, tuna, tinned tomatoes and soup. Tesco’s decision to remove multipacks will eliminate around 67 million pieces of plastic from its shelves.

A multipack of Tesco own-brand tinned tomatoesThe change applies not only to Tesco’s own-brand products, contributing to progress towards Tesco’s goal to remove one billion pieces of plastic from its own-brand products by the end of 2020, but also branded products such as Heinz Beanz.

The change will be rolled out across all Tesco stores from 2 March after being trialled at Tesco’s Bar Hill Extra store in Cambridge. Remaining multipack stock will be allowed to sell through, and the changes will also apply to products sold in Tesco Ireland.

Tesco’s policy aligns with its 4Rs strategy – remove, Reduce, Reuse, Recycle – which is geared towards removing all non-recyclable and excess packaging from its business, working with suppliers to reduce unavoidable packaging to an absolute minimum and exploring new opportunities to reuse packaging and recycling anything left.

At the end of 2019, Tesco removed all hard-to-recycle materials from its own-brand products and is working with its suppliers to do the same, while in August last year the retailer briefed 1,500 suppliers that packaging would be a factor in decisions over what gets sold in its stores.

Removing all ‘unnecessary’ packaging

Tesco’s efforts are in line with the aims of the Waste and Resources Action Programme’s (WRAP) UK Plastics Pact, to which the supermarket is a signatory. By 2025, the Pact, launched in April 2018, aims to eliminate problematic or unnecessary single-use plastic packaging, ensure 100 per cent of plastic packaging is reusable, recyclable or compostable, recycle or compost 70 per cent of plastic packaging and achieve 30 per cent recycled content in all packaging.

So far Pact members have made good progress towards the goals, with members more than halfway towards making all of their packaging recyclable and a third of the way towards using an average of 30 per cent recycled content in packaging. More than one billion single-use plastic items will also be taken out of circulation by the end of 2020 after WRAP published a list of eight items to be removed from shelves by that date.

Commenting on Tesco’s decision, CEO Dave Lewis said: “We are removing all unnecessary and non-recyclable plastic from Tesco. As part of this work, removing plastic-wrapped multipacks from every Tesco store in the UK will cut 350 tonnes of plastic from the environment every year and customers will still benefit from the same great value ‘multipack’ price. This is part of our plan to remove one billion pieces of plastic in 2020.”

Georgiana de Noronha, President of Kraft Heinz Northern Europe, which will no longer see its branded baked beans sold in multipacks in Tesco stores, said: “We’re excited to be partnering with Tesco on this. While we know we have more to do, this initiative is good news for the environment, and for the millions of people who enjoy Heinz varieties every day, as they’ll still be able to benefit from the same great value for money.”

‘A no-brainer’

The move has been cautiously welcomed by environmental campaigners, encouraging other businesses to follow Tesco’s lead. Paula Chin, Sustainable Materials Specialist at WWF, said: “WWF supports Tesco’s steps in the fight against plastic pollution. We need to remove unnecessary single-use plastic wherever possible, to stop the contamination of the natural world. If we want to protect nature we need more businesses to follow Tesco’s lead, before we run out of time to fight for our world.”

Some plastic waste campaigners, however, are calling on Tesco to go further. Sian Sutherland, A Plastic Planet co-founder, said: "Lets not forget the amount of power Tesco holds to meet the plastic crisis head on. Unfortunately, this falls short of the mark of what is needed. It's a drop in the plastic ocean.

"Imagine the impact they could make if they looked beyond their own labels and branded multi-pack tins to all packaging. Flexible plastic packaging used on multi-packs is the least recycled and least collected. Removing it is a no brainer.

"But we need more action. Shoppers continue to be forced to suffer plastic at the hands of supermarkets. Tesco's move today is just the tip of the iceberg, if they and all supermarkets, truly believe in tackling plastic pollution then they must go much further.”

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