On Monday 14th May, TGCO set off to campaign ‘takeitback’ challenge to protest against the excessive plastic packaging on groceries. I spent 7 days visiting all the major UK supermarkets to see how committed they really are at removing the unnecessary plastic packaging and what have they done so far inside their stores.
Plastic waste has always been an upsetting subject for me, by creating this campaign I wanted to influence and encourage my followers to rip off all the unnecessary plastic wrapping off their goods and leave it at the tills for the supermarkets to deal with, as something needs to be done a lot quicker than 2025.
I’m very much a people person who smiles and says her “please and thank you’s” but I do have iinner strength and courage to challenge decisions that just aren’t right. For some, I know the thought of making a public statement in their local supermarket would actually fill them with dread, but leaving your packaging at the checkout is one of the clearest ways of letting supermarkets know their customers want change NOW.
Have a read through my experience of this interesting week.
Take It Back to Marks and Spencer
I was at Kings Cross train station and fancied an apple so thought I’d visit M&S to see what was on offer, sadly there were no loose apples just a pack of two apples wrapped in plastic. After paying for this item at the till, I took the apples out of the packaging and handed over the plastic to the cashier. I asked if she had a plastic scheme and she said ‘did I want a bag for my fruit’ er, no thanks but would you be recycling that plastic packaging. She was unable to comment and started to serve the next customer. There was no manager available to help with any further questions. TGCO was slightly disappointed to say the least.
Take It Back to Morrisons
I had read some positive articles about Morrisons attitude to removing plastic and really couldn’t wait to see if for myself. Once in store I headed straight to the meat and fish counter with my tupperware containers, yes thats right, you can actually take your own plastic (not glass) containers to the fresh counters. I chose some fish and meat and both were weighed and placed inside my container with the price label stuck on top! it was that easy…I managed to speak with the manager of the Loughton Store in Essex, and she kindly informed me that the 5p bags were being removed by the beginning of June and a lot more efforts were being made to remove plastic packaging from items such as fish and vegetables. Once at the till, the cashier informed me that she could take my plastic back if I wished to give it to her for recycling! wow! she mentioned quite a few people had been doing the same thing and she felt proud to work for a company that cares for its planet.
TGCO was over joyed with my experience at this supermarket, and felt so happy that it was evident in store. Well Done Morrisons!
Take It Back to Aldi
I do my weekly shop in Aldi and am already aware of the plastic packaging frustration from their fruit and veg packaging but whilst I was researching, I was pleased to read that Aldi was the first supermarket to join recycling scheme, is aiming to eliminate plastic by 2022 and has already eliminated microbeads from their products in 2015. Aldi is a lot smaller than the bigger supermarkets, and they don’t have fresh fruit counters, but loose fruit is becoming more evident in store but they do have a lot of plastic being used that isn’t recyclable.
I was ecstatic to discover their own brand of cotton buds are made from a bio degradable material and you can even recycle the container they are housed in. YES Aldi. I was advised by the manager of the Harlow store in Essex, that the 5p bags will be taken out of the store by the end of year and the larger/stronger bags for life are actually made from the warehouse plastic from the back of the store.
Overall I was pleased that this company is taken an active step to recycle its plastic but a lot more can be done in store. TGCO suggestion is to provide recycle bins by the packing shelves, so customers can leave their plastic there when packing their items to take home.
Take It Back to Sainsbury’s
I was in Beconsfield for the day and decided to visit the local Sainsburys. Once inside the store it was very clear to see a lot of positive changes. Cardboard boxes are encourage to be used instead of plastic bags, a lot more loose fruit and plastic bag recycling points. I happen to meet the manager of the store and directed me to the recycling bag point, which works out isn’t just for bags… In fact, these points are able to recycle loads of things not accepted by many kerbside recycling collections, for example:
- bread bags
- wrappers of toilet and kitchen roll packs
- ring joiners from multipacks
- plastic bags from fruit and vegetables
- bubble wrap and more
I noticed they provided brown paper bags for mushroom and clear recyclable plastic bags for fruit and vegetables. The next aisle I discovered organic bananas covered in plastic and fair-trade loose bananas without plastic, it would be great if sainsburys could come up with something different to identify the organic veg and fruit without covering it in plastic, maybe colour coded labels or paper tags could be the answer?
Overall a positive experience from sainsburys who seem to be taking a very active step in reducing the plastic from their stores.
Take It Back to Tesco
I did try to contact the Press team at Tesco before my review, but they sadly never returned my calls. I visited the Edinburgh Way store located in Harlow, Essex.
I managed to meet the manager of the store who went to show me the controls in place for recycling at this store. Ink catridges and Batteries points were all that he could show me, and when I went to look inside these there was plastic and food waste inside them. He then mentioned that they no longer sold the 5p bags but a stronger ‘bag for life’ which was made from recycled plastic and now sold at 10p.
I then headed to the fresh fish counter with my plastic container, the staff member was slightly confused when I handed over my tupperware box but was still happy to place the fresh prawns inside and placed the label on the lid. I then walked over to the fruit and vegetable area, as i went to examine the packaging i noticed none of the plastic packaging had a recycling logo! is that allowed? how can tesco customers know if an item is recyclable or not?
I then headed to the till area, I tried to hand over my plastic at the till but was advised by the cashier to go to recycling bins outside. These bins are located 500 metres away from the store next to the bottle and general waste banks, once I found the correct Biffa containter to place the plastic inside to my horror it was contaminated with food waste, so I automatically knew any plastic inside that container would automatically end up now in landfill.
I felt very angry and upset with Tesco, I didn’t see any positive steps inside the store and the lack of knowledge from its staff was also very disappointing.
Take it back to Waitrose
Whilst in Beaconsfield, I also went to visit the Waitrose store. As soon as I walked inside I noticed the fruit and vegetable aisles, in particular the potato area which was covered totally covered in plastic. Hardly anything was loose in this area which was very disappointing to see. Prior to my visit, I did speak with the waitrose press team, and they did inform me that from Sept 2018 they will be banning the sale of plastic straws and withdrawing the plastic coffee cups in store. This is a very positive step and found this very refreshing to hear as both these items cause such problems in our oceans.
Whilst I was doing my shopping I did notice that the red meat and chicken was actually vacuum packed rather than being packaged on a plastic tray wrapped in plastic, this was encouraging as small as it may be it was a positive step in reducing plastic in store. I then went to take my shopping to the till, I mentioned to the cashier that I wanted to hand over my unwanted plastic packaging however she promptly rejected my plea and was told that waitrose do not take plastic waste or bags back due to contamination! Ocado was the only company that took the carrier bags back from its customers. I was encourage to take it home and recycle it all myself, thanks Waitrose!
Take it Back to Iceland
I was very excited to review Iceland, as it was a store I had never shopped in. I was welcomingly shown around by the store manager of the slough store and was happily showing me all the steps the company had taken in removing plastic from their stores. I was overjoyed to be told that their own branded items were now packaged in cardboard and not plastic containers! they have plans in place to remove the plastic shopping bags from the till area and will be the first retailer to stop using palm oil as an ingredient in their own brand foods. WOW!
TGCO was overwhelmed with my findings but also the contents inside this supermarket, why hadn’t I been in here before? Well Done Iceland.
Take it Back to Asda
Asda isn’t a supermarket I tend to shop in so was excited to review what they had implemented in store. I noticed automatically in the vegetable and fruit section that there was a lot of plastic wrapping around the food, however i did also notice a few loose boxes scattered around, using these boxes is a great substitute for carrier bags. There was a section of packed lunch mini fresh fruit wrapped in mini plastic bags, 5 items for £1.50. I didn’t see the point of this, clearly it would be cheaper to buy one piece of fruit, cut it up and use it for a couple of days. I did read an article from the guardian dated back to February 2018, whereby Asda would be removing the polystyrene pizza bases and replacing these with an alternative environmental friendly product. Sadly this wasn’t on show….
Once at the tills I asked the cashier if she would accept my plastic packaging that i didn’t want to take home with me, she mentioned that she couldn’t as it wasn’t company practise. Oh dear Asda!
Take It Back to Lidl
I’ve never really shopped in Lidl, so this was a whole new experience for me. The first thing I noticed was mess, chaos and overcrowded aisles as I walked towards the fruit and vegetable area all i could see was vegetables and fruit covered in plastic including the packaging inside the cardboard boxes. Even their loose nuts and fruits were partnered with plastic bags to take them away. I did notice they had a 5p bag that was made from recycled polythene but after checking with the cashier, she confirmed that the bags could not be recycled. I saw no incentive inside the store or steps in place to suggest lidl is taking part of this pledge to get rid of plastic.
What have I learnt?
Being organised before you enter a supermarket is key….ensure you have your shopping bags, trolleys bags and containers to avoid buying plastic.
Should your items be covered in plastic, take it off either whilst packing at the till or afterwards. Leaving your packaging in the supermarket means it’s their responsibility to deal with it.
The majority of staff didn’t have any direction for what to do in this “takeitback” situation, which surprised me given the growing public concern over plastic pollution.
I was often shown the plastic bag points inside the supermarkets stores, which was great however, I can’t help but think it then makes it my responsibility, rather than the supermarket’s, to deal with the packaging.
So TGCO suggests if you want to carry on doing your bit to “takeitback” continue to take back the packaging to the supermarket information point instead, asking them to recycle it and letting the manager know about your request. It takes the pressure off till staff and means the message is more likely to get through to head office, where, hopefully, changes about the amount of packaging in their stores can – and will – be made.
Small actions will make a BIG difference..