Supermarket Tesco has begun a trial of a zero-waste shopping service across 10 stores in East England, in partnership with reusable packaging platform Loop. The trial will allow customers to buy several common household goods in reusable and returnable packaging.
The service is not compulsory, and non-reusable options will still be readily available. Instead, the service will mean that there will be a Loop section in many of the aisles within the supermarket, where customers can find pre-filled reusable packaging containing a variety of popular products. Some of the brands that will be accessible through the service – which features 88 products – include Tetley Tea, BrewDog, Carex, Persil, and Fever Tree. In addition to these branded products, Tesco are also including 35 of their own brand essential products such as oil, rice, sugar, and pasta.
When customers have emptied their Loop products, they will be able to return the packaging to a collection point in store. The reusable products will be no more expensive than the original versions, bar a 20p deposit fee which will be fully refunded via an app upon return.
The trial is an attempt to tackle the unsustainable reliance in food production on single-use plastics. Tesco says that at these 10 stores alone, if customers switched out just 3 non-reusable items for reusable Loop items, the packaging from them would be reused more than 2.5 million times a year. This trial is the next step after a year-long online pilot in which customers could order and return products and packaging from their own homes.
The stores taking part in the trial are: Milton Keynes Kingston, Northampton South, Cambridge Newmarket Road, Wellingborough, Milton Keynes Wolverton, Evesham, Leicester Hamilton, Stratford-upon-Avon, Ashby-de-la-Zouch, and Loughborough Rushes.
The move to reusable packaging is becoming more popular, with numerous independent zero-waste shops beginning to appear around the UK. Independent zero-waste shops tend to differ from Tesco’s initial approach as they encourage customers to bring their own packaging to fill in-store. Independent shops also have a reputation for being on the pricier side. Kate Hardcastle, a consumer expert, has commented on this saying, “bigger retailers can bring an economy of scale to the consumer, which will help with more affordable prices and more access”.
However, Hardcastle has added: "what we don't want to see is big supermarket chains bulldozing the small retailers out of the equation", stating that, "the best outcome for our environment is if small and big retailers can all trade successfully with far greater ethical packaging and products on sale."