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Tesco to start recycling bread bags and crisp packets

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Tesco is rolling out collection points for soft plastic packaging like crisp packets, pet food pouches and bread bags at stores in England and Wales.

The supermarket chain is aiming to establish a nationwide recycling network for these harder to process plastics.

Currently most soft plastic ends up in landfill.

The recycled material will be used to package food, household and beauty products, Tesco said.

The supermarket said it prioritised reducing the plastic packaging it used, but that the new service would also have “a real impact”.

“Where plastic serves an important purpose such as reducing food waste, these new recycling points make sure that every piece can be easily recycled,” said Sarah Bradbury, Tesco’s director of quality.

The roll-out will start with new collection points at 171 stores in the south west of England and in Wales.

During a 10-store trial in 2018 Tesco said the most commonly returned packaging was bread bags, fruit and vegetable packaging, crisp packets, salad bags, and baby and pet food pouches.

Customers may return packaging bought from other retailers as well as Tesco’s own packaging, however they will need to clean items that are heavily soiled and take them back to participating stores, while the rest of their recycling is collected at the kerbside.

Tesco said it expected to collect 1,000 tonnes of soft plastic a year.

One estimate suggests UK supermarkets produce 800,000 tonnes of plastic every year, although they don’t make figures publicly available.

Mandatory labels? Packaging food correctly helps to avoid food spoiling and going to waste, causing higher carbon emissions. However campaign groups have urged producers to switch to packaging materials that are easier to recycle and to improve labelling so shoppers know how to dispose of each item.

“Our research has shown that almost half of grocery packaging used by supermarkets is not widely recyclable, so it is good to see Tesco widening its recycling facilities to help consumers dispose of packaging in a more sustainable way,” said Michael Briggs, Head of Sustainability at consumer group Which?.

“To further reduce the waste that goes to landfill, the government should make recycling labels on food packaging mandatory, simple and clear, enabling shoppers to know exactly how to dispose of packaging on the products they consume.”

In 2018 Which? examined the packaging of a typical household shop at eleven UK supermarkets. It found only 52% of the packaging could go into household recycling bins and that 42% of products lacked adequate labelling.

Which? pinpointed products like KitKat, Babybel and Pringles, that came in packaging that was particularly challenging to dispose of.

Crisp packet problem Last year, Which? examined the recyclability of 89 branded grocery products sold in UK supermarkets.

Only 30 of the 89 items were in fully recyclable packaging.

When it grouped the items into categories, it found that some products had packaging that was particularly difficult to recycle. For example, 93% of the packaging generated by the snacks and crisps products could not be recycled, either at the kerbside or at collection points.

David Moon, head of business collaboration at Wrap, which campaigns to reduce packaging waste, also welcomed Tesco’s move as “a step in the right direction”.

“We need all supermarkets to collect all plastic films, adopt consistent messaging and share their insights to make this work,” he added.

Wrap said its research showed at least a quarter of people would be wiling to take plastic bags and wrappers back to the supermarket, but that the key was to make sure the services were convenient to use.

Many UK brands and retailers have signed up to the UK Plastics Pact, committing them to remove by 2025 all packaging that cannot be recycled. Several have introduced in-store recycling collections.

Sainsbury’s, the UK’s second largest supermarket, collects and recycles carrier bags and some other soft plastic packaging, such as the bags that apples and pears are sold in. Items can be handed to home delivery drivers or taken into stores.

Sainsbury’s is also trialling the collection in some stores of polypropylene film and plastic, typically used to wrap salad, frozen food and cakes.

Waitrose said it also accepted carrier bags and plastic films, during deliveries and in-store and was currently planning a trial to expand the flexible plastics it accepts.

Morrisons said it was reducing plastic use overall and already had in-store recycling bins to collect plastic bags, films and wraps.

The Co-op has trialled collection at 50 of its stores of a range of plastic types similar to those that Tesco plans to collect.

Wrap said that overall, the UK recycled about half of its plastic packaging.

This article was originally published by bbc.com.

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