How four retailers are reducing single-use plastics

Date : 04 November 2019

Retailers are looking at ways to limit the use of plastic throughout their supply chains. The initiatives aim to balance the need to protect the quality of products, while also reducing their use of plastic and, therefore, their impact on the environment. We look at four ways retailers are aiming to reduce their use of plastics.

Asda launches plastic free herbs

Asda has introduced plastic-free herbs, which removes unnecessary plastic from its production.

Instead of the herbs being planted in a plastic pot, it has been replaced by a sustainable container, called a plug. Furthermore, the plastic wrap has been replaced by a paper sleeve. The plastic-free herb range includes basil, coriander, mint, rosemary, thyme and parsley. Asda has said the initiative removes 45.6 tonnes of plastic annually.

Other initiatives Asda has introduced include removing single-use carrier bags and adapting its private label packaging, which has eliminated 6,500 tonnes of plastic.

Asda's plastic free herb range.
Source: Asda


Morrisons introduces clear labelling

Morrisons has launched a new label, which will be visible on hundreds of products, to explain to shoppers, which are able to be recycled or reused. The retailer launched the initiative as two thirds of shoppers said they were not confident about recycling some plastics. Morrisons said key products shoppers are unsure of how to recycle included banana bags, bread bags and toilet roll packaging.

The initiative clearly identifies whether packaging can be recycled at home with a ‘Please recycle me’ icon or ‘Please reuse me’ on some container pots. Meanwhile, Morrisons has a ‘Please recycle me in-store’ icon, for packaging that cannot be easily recycled at home. 

The scheme started on 400 product lines and will be expanded if it improves recycling levels.


Morrisons new recycle labels.
Source: Morrisons


Sainsburys makes plastic reduction promise

Sainsburys has pledged to reduce its plastic packaging by 50% by 2025. The retailer has adopted several initiatives to reduce the amount of plastic packaging it uses. The retailer announced a 12-week trial of plastic free flower range, at 167 stores. The flowers will be wrapped in recyclable paper packaging and held together using recyclable paper tape. Sainsburys claim the trial will remove over 10 tonnes of plastic.

Separately, Sainsburys has replaced single use plastic produce bags with recycled reusable bags. The reusable bags each contain one recycled plastic bottle.

A reusable fresh produce bag.
Source: Sainsburys 


Other initiatives Sainsbury’s has introduced include: removing microbeads from its private label and replaced plastic cutlery with wooden alternatives in their food-to-go range.  

Sainsburys said new initiatives that will be introduced to stores in the short term include replacing hard to recycle plastic from chilled ready meals and removing plastic bags from the bakery section.

Tesco to remove one billion pieces of plastic

Tesco will be removing one billion pieces of plastic from its private label products by the end of 2020.

Areas of focus

Tesco will be removing:

  • Small plastic bags used to pack loose fruit, vegetables and bakery items
  • Plastic trays from ready meals
  • Secondary lids on products such as cream, yoghurts and cereals
  • Sporks and straws from snack pots and drinks cartons
  • Packaging for clothing and greetings cards

4 R's strategy

Tesco's strategy to tackle the use of plastics in its business is to:

  1. Remove
  2. Reduce
  3. Reuse
  4. Recycle

Source: Tesco


Earlier this year the retailer met with 1,500 suppliers to inform them that packaging will form a key part of its decision-making process going forwards. It has highlighted that it may choose to no longer stock products that use excessive or hard to recycle materials. This followed on from a comprehensive review of packaging in 2018 when Tesco announced it would remove hard to recycle materials from over 4,000 tonnes of materials, from 800 private label lines by 2019.

Tesco has also called on the government to introduce a UK national infrastructure for recycling, offering to give space in car parks for recycling and testing the collection of materials not currently recycled by local councils.

Tesco CEO Dave Lewis commented: "Our work to remove, reduce, reuse and recycle is already transforming our packaging. By focusing on solutions that we can apply across all our UK stores and supply chain, we can make a significant difference and achieve real scale in our efforts to tackle plastic."

Check our Tesco, Sainsbury’s, Morrisons and Asda hubs, as well as our resilient and responsive hub for more related news.