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Tesco partners with Faerch to launch PET recycling initiative

Supermarket chain Tesco and sustainable packaging solutions company Faerch have collaborated on what it claims is an industry first, closed loop recycling solution that ensures secondary plastic packaging used to transport and display products on shelves is retained by the food packaging industry.

The companies say that PET shelf-ready packaging, which is used in UK supermarkets to transport products, is usually downcycled into non-food applications. The new ‘tray to tray’ initiative will involve Faerch collecting secondary PET and using its advanced recycling process to make new primary food contact packaging, including pots, tubs, and trays.

Tesco adds that packaging for its own brand cut fruit, selected yoghurts, and meat will contain 30% rPET originating in Tesco stores. It will therefore require all Tesco own brands and branded suppliers to use food contact approved PET for shelf-ready packaging.

In addition, Tesco claims this initiative will provide a solution to the shortfall in recycled PET availability due to increasing demand for PET bottle flakes.

William Guest, sustainable packaging manager at Tesco, comments: “Wherever we can, we remove or reduce packaging but where it is needed we want to improve circularity to make our packaging as sustainable as possible.

“One way we can do that is by ensuring packaging that meets food contact requirements remains within the food packaging sector, being recycled back into food contact packaging.

“This collaboration with Faerch will ensure that each year 2,000 tonnes of PET is recycled to make new Tesco packaging that otherwise would have been downcycled into non-food applications.”

According to Matt Tollman, group strategic sales director at Faerch: “This is a perfect example of how collaboration between packaging manufacturers, retailers and their suppliers can deliver lasting change and material circularity.

“The ‘Tray 2 Tray by Faerch’ project demonstrates that PET packaging can be recovered and recycled at an industrial level and made back into food grade pots and trays.”

The new initiative is part of Tesco’s strategy for reducing plastic waste, first launched in 2019, which involves removing packaging where possible, reducing packaging where it cannot be removed, increasing reuse, and recycling what is left after these options. The strategy has allegedly removed a billion pieces of plastic from Tesco’s UK business operations, and the supermarket chain is aiming to remove a further half a billion in 2021.

Previous initiatives announced by Tesco include a trial for recycling items such as laminated pet food pouches, sweet wrappers, and crisp packets returned to stores by consumers into chemical feedstock and plastic packaging for cheeses launched in 2020, which is made from recycled soft, flexible plastic packaging that can also be continuously recycled into safe, food-grade packaging. The ‘tray to tray’ and other initiatives also complement Tesco’s launch of Loop in September 2021, which allows customers to buy products in packaging that can be returned to stores for cleaning, refill and reuse.  

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