A partnership between Tesco and the packaging manufacturer, Berry Global, will see soft plastic collected from Tesco stores and recycled into pellets for use in bin liners.

Tesco says it has rapidly scaled the amount of soft plastics collection points, which were first trialled in 2019, with the retailer reporting a recovery rate of 80% for the soft plastic returned by customers. The retailer apparently now collects plastic from customers for recycling in over 900 stores, with over 850 tonnes of soft plastic collected to date.

As part of the collaboration between Tesco and Berry, 25 tonnes of soft plastic per month of collected material — including bread bags, fruit, vegetable and salad packaging — is being sent to Berry’s recycling facility in Heanor, Derbyshire.

At the facility, the soft plastic material is washed, scrubbed, and dried, with unwanted items removed from the recycling stream. Berry then turns the resulting material into pellets, which can be used in the manufacture of bin liners.

Additionally, the Tesco recycled pallet is blended with recovered agricultural films, such as baling wrap. According to the companies, the combination of the two recycled material sources gives the refuse sacks the required strength and durability, with a high resistance to tearing.

Tesco and Berry are apparently working in partnership to ensure full traceability of the collected soft plastics through the supply chain and ensure the circularity of the project.

William Guest, sustainability packaging manager at Tesco, comments: “Our soft plastic collection points help to plug the gap in the country’s recycling infrastructure, and when combined with initiatives like this, we meet our customers’ ask that materials do not go to waste.”

Max Baxter, external affairs director at Berry bpi, adds: “Our collaboration with Tesco demonstrates how traditionally hard to recycle plastics can now be sustainably converted and manufactured into new products in the UK.

“We are delighted to be supporting this Tesco initiative which helps to keep valuable used plastic film out of the waste stream.”

Speaking to Packaging Europe earlier this year, James Bull, head of packaging at Tesco, noted that the soft plastic collection scheme is a “popular concept”, adding that the retailer is “working with recyclers to explore what can be done with the remaining 20%” of soft plastics that are not currently recycled as part of the initiative. Tesco already offers cheese in food-grade soft, flexible plastic packaging made with recycled soft plastic collected in its stores.

Tesco’s strategy focuses on the four Rs: Remove, Reduce, Reuse, Recycle. In line with ‘Reduce’ and ‘Remove’, the retailer has also stopped selling beer and ciders held together by soft plastic rings and shrink wrap, requiring companies to use alternative materials for multipacks, such as cardboard sleeves or rigid plastic that can be recycled via kerbside collection. Last year, Tesco also launched Loop in some of its stores, which offers customers refillable options for brands including Alberto Balsam, Coca-Cola, Persil, and Tetley.

Tesco says that its 20 Extra Strong Refuse Sacks 75L, which are made from 20% recycled plastic, are currently available in-store, priced at £3 per pack.