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Tesco to expand its soft plastic recycling scheme across Wales

Credit: Tesco

Welsh shoppers will now be able to recycle cling film, crisp packets and salad bags at their local Tesco store as the supermarket rolls out the biggest network of soft plastic collection points in the UK.

Tesco is putting the collection points in 41 Welsh stores as it rolls out the facilities to 171 Tesco Extras and Superstores, with plans to roll out the scheme to all large stores UK-wide. This will be the first time that Wales 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.

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 to pack items such as food, household and beauty products.

The roll out follows an extremely successful 10-store trial in Bristol and Swindon 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 Store Director for Mid and West Wales Mike Casey said: “It is an absolute priority to remove and reduce the amount of plastic in our stores to the minimum and ensure everything we use is recycled and kept out of the environment. Where plastic serves an important purpose, 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.”

One of the new stores getting the recycling point is Tesco’s Llansamlet Extra store in Swansea. Store manager Jo Davis said: “We know that a lot of our customers want to reduce their plastic packaging waste so we are expecting the new soft plastics recycling point to prove popular. It will be a really visible sign in store of what we are doing to reduce the impact of plastic packaging.”

Paula Chin, WWF Sustainable Materials Specialist added: “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.

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.