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Tesco to trial new technology that makes all plastic packaging recyclable

A Tesco store in Swindon, Wiltshire. Photo: Tim Ireland/PA Wire

Tesco will begin trialling technology this week that makes all plastic packaging recyclable.

The supermarket giant announced it will start collecting previously unrecyclable plastics in 10 of its stores as part of a trial with Recycling Technologies.

The recycling specialist has developed and patented a process to turn waste plastic back into an ultra low-sulfur oil called Plaxx, which can then be used to manufacture new plastic.

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Customers will be able to return the hardest-to-recycle soft plastics — including pet food pouches, shopping bags, and crisp packets, all of which can not commonly be recycled by local councils — to Tesco, safe in the knowledge that they will recycled through this new “state-of-the-art” process.

The trial will begin with the installation of 10 collection booths at Tesco stores in and around Swindon and Bristol.

This move comes as part of Tesco’s efforts to make all of its packaging recyclable by 2025, creating a closed loop packaging system. Last year, Tesco shared its intention to stop packing products in the hardest-to-recycle materials by the end of 2019.

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Tesco currently claims 83% of its packaging is recyclable. Should the new soft plastics collection be rolled out to all Tesco stores, the retailer has estimated it will be possible to recycle around 90% of its own-label packaging. This is the equivalent of 65,000 additional tonnes of plastic.

This recycling initiative also follows the supermarket’s announcement last week of a trial to remove packaged fruit and vegetables wherever a loose alternative exists.

“Reducing and recycling plastics is such an important issue for us, for customers, and for the future of our planet. That’s why we are working hard to reduce the amount of packaging in our stores and have committed that all remaining packaging will be recyclable by 2025,” Sarah Bradbury, Tesco’s director of quality, said.

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“Our trial with Recycling Technologies will make even more of our packaging recyclable and help us reach our target. This technology could be the final piece of the jigsaw for the UK plastic recycling industry.”