Saturday, April 11, 2009

Tesco's Got The Idea

Groceries from Tesco. Photograph: Martin Godwin.

Tesco, a supermarket chain in the UK, is conducting an experiment in its stores to see what packaging customer do or do not want on their groceries.

The experiment kicked off on April 1, 2009 and will run for 6 weeks. Tesco has already cut back on what it regards as “wasteful” packaging, such as bulky dog food bags and unnecessary plastic wrapping on food. Now they want to know what other packaging the consumer is prepared to live without.

Some of the most common customer complaints include the amount of plastic, cardboard and foil used with Easter eggs, the box surrounding the tube of toothpaste, and the trays and plastic wrap used to “protect” fruit.

These tests are temporary and any packaging the customers leave behind will be recycled once it has been used to gather information on what consumers consider excess packaging.

Alasdair James, Tesco's head of energy, waste and recycling, recently visited Germany. He said: "We know our customers expect us to help them recycle easily and we have also committed ourselves to cutting our own waste. This unique pilot helps us do both. Packaging left by customers at the store will tell us a lot about areas we may need to look at again, as well as where we have got it right."

Tesco pointed that for regulatory reasons or where labelling was essential - for instance in warning of products containing nuts - packaging might still be necessary.

A large proportion of retail packaging ends up in landfill space where it takes a long time to decompose, and even then the waste can give off harmful gases and toxins which pollute the air and water.

Maybe every chain store should conduct a similar experiment. Contact your favourite chain stores with this suggestion if the feeling moves you.

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