We all know that single-use plastic is problematic, or should I say that what we do with it is a problem? According to Mark Gover, CEO of WRAP (Waste and Resources Action Programme) “as little as six per cent of this problematic plastic is collected and recycled in the UK, despite making up nearly a quarter of all plastic packaging by weight”.

Being a zero waste shop offering refills, it won't shock you that this concerns me & is a daily conversation. It’s the main reason that Food for Thought exists. But I’ve just read a really in depth & frankly infuriating report by Bloomberg on Tesco.

It investigates how the supermarket giant recycles its soft plastic packets. Or doesn’t. You know, the ones that can’t be recycled generally but apparently can now at certain supermarkets?

According to Tesco’s Director of Quality, Sarah Bradbury, said: “We’re tackling the impact of plastics by removing and reducing it as much as possible, helping customers move to reusable alternatives, and ensuring they can recycle everything that’s left.”

The report begs to differ. It states that Tesco waste is sold on to multiple companies in Europe, Turkey…but there’s no definitive answer to the question of what happens to our Tesco soft plastics waste that we return to them.

Oh, & the bosses who run the companies dealing with the waste make millions of pounds of profits. I mean, business can’t be bad if you’re flying around in a private jet!

What happens to the waste that we produce then?

Best case scenario is that it travels miles, hundreds or thousands & some of it is recycled. But Bloomberg were told that the waste companies paid to sort & recycle waste are actually paying cement factories to burn some of it as fuel. I’ve seen documentaries stating that it’s sent to Asia where children are having to have operations due to the damage caused by toxins from burnt plastic (not exclusively Tesco’s waste). It releases goodness knows how many tonnes of carbon dioxide into the environment. Yeah carbon dioxide, that gas which speeds up the process of global warming. Global warming? Yeah, that thing that needs urgent action in the next few years in order to avoid or slow catastrophic global events.

Nothing urgent then…

So Tesco completely loses track of where the waste goes but hey it’s off their hands. If I’m honest, I imagine that Tesco is quite happy to outsource their waste despite being fully aware of the practises involved. They say they’re doing the ‘right thing’, can greenwash to their hearts’ content & loads more people go to their supermarkets. Even better when Tesco big wigs are then taken to Vegas for an all expenses paid trip by one of the waste companies! Honestly read the report for more details. I’d say it’s unbelievable but alas, it’s not a surprise.

If we’re all honest, doing the right thing by the planet can feel a bit too big sometimes so having someone that they’re taking care of things helps us feel better, whether they actually are or not which is probably the case with recycling. We’re doing our bit. We feel better just without having to change our habits. And change can be hard.

But can we keep on like this? These plastics are notoriously hard to recycle even when they’re in perfect condition. But burnt? That’s no good. What IS the alternative?


Where there are options (& trust me they are out there), reduce & reuse! Refill your own containers, jam jars, anything! Stop buying those items that come in those plastic packets where possible. Even if it’s just one packet a week, it’s a start! Could you get yourself a little pot in which to grow salad on your windowsill, in the garden or patio? It doesn’t have to cost the Earth!

Find out how we can help & what could you refill from places like Food for Thought. It starts somewhere so why not here & now?


Written by Kerry Leese

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