Supermarket retailer Tesco has called for a ‘viable and sustainable’ deposit return scheme for drinks bottles (DRS) in a major new strategic report. The report sets out a strategy for the combined efforts of retailers, industry and government to reduce the environmental impact of packaging.
Tesco launched its own strategy, titled ‘Remove, Reduce, Re-use, Recycle’ in 2019, and in the new report the retailer claims that it has since removed over two billion pieces of plastic from its UK business.
These include 30 million yoghurt pot lids, 24 million plastic windows removed from doughnut packaging, and 29 million pieces of plastic removed from limescale packaging. Furthermore, tinned multipacks are no longer wrapped, bags have been removed from delivery services, and plastic forks in salad bowls have been replaced by wooden ones.
Tesco also called for a uniform DRS, after criticising the Scottish scheme for being overly confusing. Tesco chief executive Ken Murphy described it as “not fit for purpose.”
The Times reports that Murphy said the process was “far from simple” for customers, suppliers and retailers, adding: “It’s a scheme that needs more time to get it right and, when it is launched, it should be a UK-wide scheme rather than one for each of the devolved nations to implement.”
He continued: “The UK is a single market for soft drinks. And so the scale of a UK-wide scheme seems . . . more logical.” After some manufacturers warned that brands would pull out from selling in Scotland altogether, the new First Minister Humza Yousaf delayed the start of the scheme by seven months to March 2024.
Tesco also weighed in on the issue in its new report, stating: “we must learn the lessons from Scotland…we have been testing DRS since 2018 and have built enormous expertise in how to make a scheme successful with customers, and financially viable.”
“Having multiple different approaches within the UK jeopardises the sustainability and viability of schemes and a joined up approach across the UK must be adopted.”
Tesco Responsible Sourcing Director Kené Umeasiegbu said: “We all have a responsibility to take care of our planet and removing unnecessary plastic is an important way that Tesco can reduce its environmental impact.”
“As well as taking action in our own operations, we want to work with the whole industry to continue to build on the progress we’ve made to Remove, Reduce, Reuse and Recycle more.”
In England, Wales, and Northern Ireland, DRS are set to be introduced from October 2025. Tesco also called for a consistent kerbside collection scheme across the UK and stated that it would support the government’s current efforts to achieve this. There has been criticism from some quarters of an overly complex system that would confuse householders.
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