Thursday, 18 Apr 2024

Tesco removes plastic-wrapped fruit and veg from its shelves

Supermarket giant Tesco removes plastic-wrapped fruit and veg from its shelves in a pilot scheme aimed at cutting down on packaging waste

  • Scheme at two Tesco stores will see it only sell 45 types of fruit and veg loose 
  • It will sell fresh produce including apples, onions and mushrooms unpackaged
  • Chain’s move could prevent production of millions of plastic bags and punnets
  • Shoppers becoming increasingly aware of harm caused by plastic packaging
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Britain’s biggest supermarket will only sell 45 types of fruit and veg loose in a trial aiming to reduce plastic pollution.

Under the scheme at two stores, Tesco will only sell fresh produce including apples, onions and mushrooms unpackaged.

It hopes to extend the initiative to all of its supermarkets in a move that could prevent the production of millions of plastic bags and punnets.

Tesco will only sell fresh produce including apples, onions and mushrooms unpackaged (file)

The changes at the Watford and Swindon stores come as customers become increasingly aware of the harm caused by plastic packaging that cannot be recycled.

Tesco said it would closely monitor each of the 45 products to see if the move increased food waste. 

The Tesco initiative, which follows similar trials by Marks & Spencer and Iceland, is significant because it is the UK’s biggest supermarket chain.

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Other national chains, such as Morrisons and Waitrose, are moving in the same direction by, for example, doing away with plastic packaging in favour of paper bags or other recyclable materials.

The changes come in response to a backlash from shoppers who have been alerted to the harm caused by plastic packaging to the environment.

At the same time, many are angry that supermarkets are pumping out huge amounts of plastic packaging that ends up in bins and cannot be recycled. As a result, it ends up in landfill or is burned for energy.

The changes at the stores in Watford and Swindon (pictured) come as customers become increasingly aware of the harm caused by plastic packaging that cannot be recycled

Tesco is actively removing a 45 packaged foods from stores in Watford and Swindon, where these same products are sold loose and customers can pick their own from the shelves.

This returns to a more traditional type of selling fresh produce which harks back to the way greengrocers operate.

Free filtered drinking water at Pret a Manger as backlash continues against plastic bottles

Hundreds of Pret a Manger outlets are to offer free filtered drinking water to customers as part of the growing backlash against plastic bottles.

The idea is that anyone can use water fountains set up in some 250 of the company’s outlets across the country, even if they are not making a purchase.

The company believes the initiative will reduce the need for millions of throwaway plastic bottles which end up as litter, are buried in landfill or burned for energy.

The move is a victory for the Daily Mail’s ‘Turn the Tide on Plastic’ campaign and part of a growing backlash against the pollution and waste associated with plastic bottles and packaging.

An estimated 35 million plastic bottles are sold in UK every day, however fewer than 60 per cent are recycled and as many as 700,000 plastic bottles fuel a tide of litter per day.

There is research suggesting that one in three people – 34 per cent – feel embarrassed or reluctant to ask for a drinking water refill in an establishment where they have not made a purchase. Strangely, one in five still feel uncomfortable asking even when they had made a purchase.

However, bosses at Pret say they want to make clear to the public that they are very welcome to use the water fountains without spending anything. 

A Tesco spokesman said: ‘Customers will see fruit and veg including varieties of apples, mushrooms, peppers, onions, bananas and avocados free from their packaging.’

Historically, supermarkets have defended their use of packaging on the basis it is claimed to protect fresh produce and so reduces food waste.

Tesco said it will be surveying shoppers in the stores to help understand the reaction to the trial. It will also be closely monitoring each of the products to see if there is an increase in food waste.

The chain’s director of quality, Sarah Bradbury, said: ‘We want to remove as much plastic as we can from our products, only using what is necessary to protect and preserve our food.

‘We hope this trial proves popular with customers. We’ll be keeping a close eye on the results, including any impact on food waste.

‘Whatever happens, we’re going to keep reducing the amount of packaging we use and ensure everything on our shelves is fully recyclable.’

In January, Marks & Spencer announced a trial that involves selling 90 lines of fruit and vegetables sold loose, rather than in packaging, at a store in Tolworth, south west London.

It also committed to launching additional lines of loose produce and more sustainable alternatives to plastic in every UK store, which could save 580 tonnes of plastic waste over two years alone.

It is also replacing plastic produce bags with paper ones and is phasing out plastic barcode stickers in favour of eco-friendly alternatives.

The loose produce range not only includes hard fruit and veg like potatoes and bananas, but also more perishable items such as soft fruits and berries, which are sold in compostable punnets.

To support the trial, M&S has introduced trained greengrocers. In addition to helping customers pick and weigh their products, they will provide tips on how best to preserve fresh produce and prevent food waste at home.

Head of Food Sustainability at M&S, Louise Nicholls, said: ‘We know our customers want to play their part in cutting out plastic, while as a business our goal is to become zero-waste by 2025. 

‘That’s why we’re working hard to reduce the amount of plastic packaging we use without compromising on food quality and contributing to waste.

‘Bringing back the traditional greengrocer will play a key part in educating our customers. Our plan is to create long-term impact in the future.’

Iceland has brought back greengrocer style displays in a trial at one of its larger concept stores, The Food Warehouse, in North Liverpool. Some 35 produce lines are being sold loose.

The same Iceland store is running a trial on selling 27 produce lines in plastic-free packaging such as see-through films created from plant origin cellulose, compostable punnets and nets, and paper bags.

Managing director at Iceland, Richard Walker, said: ‘Over 12 million tonnes of plastic enters the world’s oceans every year and the retail industry can no longer ignore the plastics tidal wave which is coming our way.

‘We all have a part to play in tackling the issue and Iceland is constantly looking for ways to reduce its own plastic footprint.’

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