UK’s Tesco introduces trialling in-store recycling machines which pay customers for returned plastic bottles


Tesco has today announced further ways to make it simpler for customers to recycle and reuse plastic packaging, and stepped up its commitment to move to a closed loop packaging system. It also calls on Government to introduce a consistent nation-wide approach to recycling.

To encourage customers to recycle plastic bottles, Tesco has today begun trialling in-store recycling machines, which will pay customers for every plastic bottle returned. The trial will take place at selected stores in Borehamwood, Swansea, Edinburgh, Manchester and Birmingham. The first machine opens for customers in Borehamwood today (27 September) and will pay 10p for bottles returned.

In addition, from 3 October customers will be able to reuse their own multi-use plastic containers when they buy meat, cheese or fish from deli and fish counters in UK stores. Instead of using single-use plastic bags, products will be weighed and wrapped in recyclable paper then placed inside the customer’s container with the price label placed on the paper.

Earlier this year Tesco announced its intention to simplify the number of materials it used in packaging to help improve the ease and rate of recyclability. It also highlighted the challenges of having different collection schemes in different local authority areas making it costly and confusing for customers to recycle.

Jason Tarry, UK and ROI CEO said:

“We are already committed to eliminating single use plastic wherever we can and make recycling simpler for customers. Today is another step in that direction

“However, we know that it is going to take retailers, manufacturers and government to work together to make progress. We would urge the government to move to a single, nationwide approach to waste collection that makes it much easier for people to recycle.”

Tesco’s approach to packaging

Over 80% of the packaging on all our own brand Tesco products is recyclable depending on if the local authority collect it. As part of our Little Helps plan, we have made the following commitments:

  • Making all packaging fully recyclable or compostable by 2025.
  • Ensuring that all paper and board used will be 100% sustainable by 2025.
  • Halving packaging weight by 2025 compared to 2007 levels.

In May 2018, Tesco announced its commitment to remove, reduce, recover, reuse and recycle packaging.

We outlined three steps to achieve this:

  1. Materials and design: In collaboration with our suppliers, we can reduce and simplify the types of materials we use in our packaging so that less packaging is used and packaging is easier to recycle. We have reviewed every material used in our Own Brand packaging and as a result of our review and consultation process with our suppliers, we have developed a preferred material list for our product packaging.
  2. Recovery/recycling: This is one area we need greater innovation and there is opportunity for significant government leadership. Currently, the inconsistencies in infrastructure and recycling activities between councils make consumer education and closed loop systems impossible to build. We would welcome the creation of an integrated national collection of packaging and investment in innovative recycling facilities. This is essential to a holistic approach to packaging recycling. PRN reform is also a necessary part of the solution and we look to contributing to this process.
  3. Changing customer behaviour: Behaviour change can only be driven once a recognised and understood recycling infrastructure is in place. Getting this right will support consumer education and practice.

Reverse Vending Scheme

According to the results of a national poll by YouGov, nearly three quarters of Britons would be likely to return plastic bottles and aluminium cans under a Reverse Vending Scheme.

The first bottle trials will be limited to 10 bottles per customer, per day and up to 750ml bottles can be deposited.

Bring your own container

Following a successful trial in 10 stores, customers will be able to use their own containers at deli counters in over 700 UK stores.

  • Hot food products such as cooked rotisserie chicken.
  • Store prepared pizzas.
  • The salad bar.
  • Olives and antipasti.

Customers will need to bring separate containers for raw and ready-to-eat cooked products.

Customers can only use multi-use plastic sealable containers. No glass, metal or cardboard containers will be accepted.

The paper wrapping is 100% recyclable and biodegradable.

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