Quantcast
Environmental News for a Healthier Planet and Life

UK's Largest Grocer Takes on Food and Plastic Waste

Business
Tesco supermarket near Ashford Hospital in West Bedfont, England. Maxwell Hamilton / CC BY 2.0

It's been a green week for Tesco, the UK's largest supermarket.

First, the chain said it would remove "Best before" labels from around 70 pre-packaged fruits and vegetables in an attempt to stop customers from discarding still-edible food, BBC News reported Tuesday.


Then it announced plans to ban all non-recyclable plastics by 2019, The Independent reported Thursday.

Both moves honor pledges Tesco has made to limit its environmental impact. Last year, the store said it would end food waste by March 2018, according to The Independent. The plastics decision comes as part of the UK Plastics Pact that Tesco signed a month ago, in which 40 UK businesses committed to eliminate single-use plastic packaging by 2025, among other goals.

The labeling decision was based on a survey by the National Federation of Women's Institutes (NFWI) that found that less than half of customers surveyed understood what "Best before" labels meant. "Best before" labels indicate that food is still safe after the listed date, but quality might suffer, whereas "Use by" labels indicate that food is actually not safe to eat after the date printed. Seventy percent of customers did understand the "use by" label, according to the NFWI.

"We know some customers may be confused by the difference between 'Best Before' and 'Use By' dates on food and this can lead to perfectly edible items being thrown away before they need to be discarded," Tesco's head of food waste Mark Little said.

He added that produce was being targeted for the change because it was one of the most wasted products.

"Many customers have told us that they assess their fruit and vegetables by the look of the product rather than the 'Best Before' date code on the packaging," he explained further.

When it comes to reducing plastic waste, the company has committed to phasing out hard to recycle packaging items like water-soluble plastics, PVC contained in plastic wrap and polystyrene.

Environmental groups welcomed Tesco's plastics decision.

"As the UK's largest grocer, Tesco could be a game-changer on plastic packaging," Greenpeace UK oceans campaigner Elena Polisano told The Independent.

"By pledging to quickly eliminate some of the plastics that are difficult to recycle, it has raised the bar for action on problem plastics," she said.

However, green groups also said the supermarket could go further by reducing the total volume of plastics it produces, as competitors Lidi and Iceland have pledged to do.

Jason Tarry, the brand's chief produce officer, said at an industry event that the chain was "committed to reducing the total amount of packaging used across our business," The Independent reported.

He further said Tesco wanted to work with the UK government to develop a "closed loop" recycling strategy.

But Friends of the Earth plastics campaigner Julian Kirby said that recycling, while important, wasn't enough to combat plastic pollution.

"What's missing is the long-term vision—we need system change, and we need all stakeholders to step out of the comfort zone of thinking we can just recycle our way out of this," Kirby told The Independent.

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

Looking across the Houston Ship Canal at the ExxonMobil Refinery, Baytown, Texas. Roy Luck, CC BY 2.0

By Nick Cunningham

A growing number of refineries around the world are either curtailing operations or shutting down entirely as the oil market collapses.

Read More Show Less
Traffic moves across the Brooklyn Bridge on Aug. 2, 2018 in New York City. Drew Angerer / Getty Images

The Trump administration is expected to unveil its final replacement of Obama-era fuel-efficiency standards for cars and light trucks Tuesday in a move likely to pump nearly a billion more tons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere over the lifetime of those less-efficient vehicles.

Read More Show Less
Sponsored
U.S. President Donald Trump listens as Anthony Fauci, Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases speaks in the Rose Garden for the daily coronavirus briefing at the White House on March 29 in Washington, DC. Tasos Katopodis / Getty Images

By Jake Johnson

Just over a month after proclaiming that the number of coronavirus cases in the U.S. would soon "be down to close to zero," President Donald Trump said during a press briefing on the White House lawn Sunday that limiting U.S. deaths from the pandemic to between 100,000 and 200,000 people would mean his administration and the country as a whole did "a very good job."

Read More Show Less
Dicamba is having a devastating impact in Arkansas and neighboring states. A farmer in Mississippi County, Arkansas looks at rows of soybean plants affected by dicamba. The Washington Post / Getty Images

Documents unearthed in a lawsuit brought by a Missouri farmer who claimed that Monsanto and German chemical maker BASF's dicamba herbicide ruined his peach orchard revealed that the two companies knew their new agricultural seed and chemical system would likely damage many U.S. farms, according to documents seen by The Guardian.

Read More Show Less
Washington State Governor Jay Inslee and other leaders speak to the press on March 28, 2020 in Seattle. Karen Ducey / Getty Images

Washington State has seen a slowdown in the infection rate of the novel coronavirus, for now, suggesting that early containment strategies have been effective, according to the Seattle NBC News affiliate.

Read More Show Less