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Tesco, every little helps but don’t stop there

Posted by Elena Polisano - 24th May 2018

Tesco has made a big announcement about changing their plastic packaging in stores. As the UK’s biggest supermarket, Tesco could be a game-changer when it comes to getting plastic off our shopping and out of our oceans. There are a lot of corporate plastic pledges flying around, so here’s a quick summary of what Tesco has promised to do and our take on whether it’s any good.

Removing some types of unrecyclable plastic packaging

Good. This is a no-brainer, and should happen without delay and without exception as alternatives already exist. Greenpeace is calling on all supermarkets to get rid of all unrecyclable plastic packaging by 2019, so we welcome this step by Tesco.

But while supermarkets should help improve recycling rates, they shouldn’t stop there. Better recycling on it’s own won’t rule out a plastic-strewn Blue Planet 3, because companies simply produce too much plastic in the first place. So that’s where we’re focusing our demands. Globally throwaway plastic packaging use is soaring, and so is the problem of plastic pollution – and much of that is ocean-bound, where it causes devastating harm to sea creatures big and small. That’s why Greenpeace wants supermarkets to urgently cut out unnecessary plastic packaging by 2019. This stuff is everywhere, and you’ve been exposing some of the worst examples of it online.

Removing some bioplastic packaging

Good. This is welcome and shows a commitment from Tesco to avoid false solutions to the ocean plastic problem, like blindly replacing plastics with bioplastics, which are plant-based plastics. Some bioplastic packaging persists in the environment and can harm wildlife. So straight swaps to bioplastic can be problematic. Plus they don’t challenge our throwaway culture. We want to see supermarkets embrace more refillable and reusable packaging options and move away from packaging that’s designed to be used once and then discarded.

What about reducing plastic?

Nope. And this is the crux of it. Tesco hasn’t set a much-needed yearly target for reducing the total volume of plastic packaging, which all supermarkets must do to curb plastic pollution. Iceland supermarket is leading the sector with its commitment to eliminate single-use plastic from its own brand products by 2023. Lidl say they are aiming for a 20% drop by 2022. It’s been calculated that supermarkets are responsible for over 800,000 tonnes of plastic waste a year, but very few retailers have been forthcoming about their individual plastic footprint. That’s why we’ve issued our Supermarket Challenge. To kick it off we launched a survey with the Environmental Investigation Agency, that’s gone to every supermarket, calling on them to divulge their plastic use and what they are doing to cut it. Supermarkets must be upfront with us about how much plastic packaging they produce, and set ambitious yearly targets to reduce that figure.  Every little helps Tesco, but don’t stop now.

The attention on plastics is not going away, and Greenpeace supporters have helped put supermarkets’ excessive use of plastic packaging at the heart of the debate on ocean plastics. Now we’re beginning to see results. Join us and add your name to call on supermarkets to ditch throwaway plastic.

Article Tagged as: Featured, Oceans, Plastics