Tesco warns products could be delisted over packaging

Suppliers must cut down on non-recyclable packaging for consumer products or face being delisted, Tesco CEO Dave Lewis has warned.

Lewis revealed the supermarket is collaborating with its suppliers to remove hard-to-recycle materials such as plastics from the products it sells in store. 

The supermarket has already changed packaging on over 800 of its own-brand products and removed 4,000 tonnes of hard-to-recycle packaging in the process.

From 2020, the size and suitability of all packaging on consumer products will be assessed as part of the supermarket’s ranging decisions. If it’s deemed excessive, the supermarket will “reserve the right not to list the product”, Lewis confirmed. 

“We’ll look at this category by category so every product is treated fairly and we’ll give sufficient time to make these changes.

“There is no doubt that the efficiencies we create make good business sense. And if we get this right, the progress we make will reverberate through the whole supply chain and drive meaningful change across the food industry.”

Writing for The Guardian, Lewis explained Tesco had trialled different ways to encourage customers and staff to use less plastic and recycle more. 

This ranged from experimenting with different technologies to make film and pouches recyclable, to making multi-buy options for loose fruit and vegetables the same cost as a pre-made multipack. 

“At scale, this will be transformational. We could remove 490 tonnes of plastic by scrapping multipack tins; 50m plastic binders on beer cans, and 44m sporks from our 'on the go' food range. The opportunity is huge. And we’re already well on the way in other areas. This month, we scrapped plastic bags with home delivery orders, removing 250m bags a year.”

Lewis said the supermarket worked with its suppliers to look for efficient solutions to help cut down on excess packaging. In some cases this meant looking for alternative materials and designs, but some needed to go “back to the drawing board”.

“All of this will take a huge amount of effort. Overhauling every piece of packaging in a business is hard, but it has got to be done,” he added. 

However, Lewis added recyclability of packaging alone will not have the desired impact and more must be done to establish a national infrastructure for recycling as rates vary from 65% to 14% across local authorities. 

“Without a national infrastructure, industry efforts to improve the recyclability of materials used in packaging will not have the impact we need.”

Earlier this year, Tesco announced it would be piloting refillable containers in their stores as part of an initiative designed to change the world’s reliance on single-use packaging.

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