Shoppers at all of UK retailer Tesco’s large stores will now be able to bring back any soft plastic packaging for recycling. 

The supermarket expects to collect more than 1000 tonnes a year and plans to recycle as much of this material as possible back into products and packaging sold in Tesco stores.

The national roll-out was brought forward by Tesco in response to what it describes as “overwhelming customer support” during the 171-store trial earlier this year in Wales and the South West, where close to a tonne of soft plastic was collected per day. 

In the trial stores, 85% of customers said it helped them to recycle more than they would have done otherwise. Customers also reported that they like the convenience of being able to combine recycling with their shopping.

The collection points will allow customers to return all their soft plastic, such as the clear film used to wrap meat and fish, crisp packets, fruit and veg bags, and sweet wrappers, rather than having to throw it away.

Marcus Gover, CEO of WRAP, says: “Tackling plastic bags and wrapping is the UK Plastics Pact’s number one priority, and increasing front of store collection points is a great step forward.

“As little as six percent of this problematic plastic is collected and recycled in the UK, despite making up nearly a quarter of all plastic packaging by weight.

“I welcome this move which will help considerably towards the UK Plastics Pact’s target of increasing plastic recycling.”

Once collected by Tesco, the old soft plastic is sent for recycling where it is washed, sorted and as much of the material as possible is recycled into new products and packaging. Tesco directs the collected material between recyclers, packaging producers and suppliers, and says that it keeps the collected material out of landfill. 

In a recent sample, Tesco claims that it was able to recover over 80% of the soft plastic returned by customers. It is now working with recyclers to explore what can be done with the remaining 20%, which is currently sent for energy recovery.