The importance of reducing single-use plastics that cannot be easily recycled has been recognized by the supermarket giant, Tesco. Following the lead set by Iceland, Tesco has pledged to ensure that their own brand products are not packaged in plastic that is hard to recycle.

Materials such as HDPE and PET that are suitable for plastic recycling will still be used by Tesco, but items such as some yogurt pots, the polystyrene discs used for packaging pizzas, and black ready meal containers will go. These will be replaced by materials such as paper, cardboard, glass, and aluminum. Additionally, rather than packaging their own brand’s mushrooms in plastic boxes wrapped in PVC film, Tesco is likely to sell them in paper bags.

Bioplastics which are claimed to be biodegradable are also set to be banned because these actually take an extremely long time before they start breaking down. Environmental groups have welcomed the move by Tesco, with Greenpeace calling it a potential game changer. Greenpeace UK’s oceans campaigner, Elena Polisano also welcomed Tesco’s exclusion of biodegradable plastics, as it reflects the company's commitment to avoiding the use of false biodegradable solutions that only break down under specific conditions, which are not always present in natural environments. The move was described as a no-brainer and the supermarket was urged to implement the changes without delay since there are already alternatives available. Although this shift will help reduce the volume of plastic in the world’s oceans and prevent damage to aquatic life, Greenpeace admits there is much more work to be done. 

In addition to moving more towards plastics and other materials that are suitable for recycling, Tesco intends to remove best before dates from some of its own label vegetables and fruit. This should help in the fight against food waste by preventing perfectly usable products from being disposed of simply because they are past their best before dates. 

Jason Tarry, Tesco’s chief product officer, has said that the firm is committed to reducing the overall amount of packaging it uses. He said that the company would ideally like to move towards a closed loop system and has called on the government to implement consistent plastic recycling infrastructure that avoids waste completely. Mr. Tarry pledged that the company would work with its suppliers to redesign and reduce all of their packaging materials. This would ensure all hard-to-recycle plastic packaging would be removed from the business by 2019.

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