Tesco Starts Online Refill Trial to Combat Plastic Waste

The Eco Experts

Tesco is joining forces with Loop, a “zero waste shopping platform”, to cut back on plastic waste.

The supermarket giant has announced it is trialling a scheme in the UK where online shoppers will be able to order food and other items in reusable packaging – initially, covering 150 of the store’s products, including Heinz Tomato Ketchup, Persil washing liquid, and Coca-Cola.

Tom Szaky, the chief executive of Loop, said the UK service would start off as a pilot, delivering to the UK mainland.

“The rising demand for home deliveries on the back of Covid presents a real opportunity for innovation in reusable packaging. It’s great news that Tesco and Loop have seized this opportunity, and are allowing online shoppers to use refillable containers,” said Louise Edge, a spokeswoman for the organisation.

How will it work?

Customers will apply for the service by clicking on a link on the Tesco website, and will then be able to order their delivery, which will come in a bag via courier firm DPD.

After using the products, customers will then need to ask for DPD to come and collect the empty bag of containers.

These will then be cleaned by food safety firm Ecolab, and returned to Loop to be reused.

“The concept is similar to how the milkman used to come to the front door, pick up used milk bottles, and leave fresh milk in a new container. 

After use, customers simply place the empty containers into the tote bag in which the food arrived and go online to schedule a packaging pickup and second delivery. A deposit is paid on each piece of packaging and is fully refunded upon return.” – Giles Bolton, Responsible Sourcing Director, Tesco

Despite a flood of positive feedback on social media, some people have also raised concerns over the steep prices. Tesco has confirmed that offers will not be available through the scheme, and Clubcard points will also be out of the question for now. 

On top of this, customers will have to pay a deposit of £1 per item on their order. Although you’ll get this money back once you return the items, some people just simply won’t be able to afford this initial price. 


View this post on Instagram


Amidst the news that Tesco are going into a price war with Aldi (and once again putting producers under huge pressure 😔) today they have launched an online “zero waste” offering under the name “Loop”. 🧐 . Of course it’s amazing to see refillable options in the mainstream 🎉 (despite the fact it’s mostly unethical big brands such as Unilever 😐) but I thought it would be useful to do a quick price comparison on the same amounts as Loop bought plastic free at @zerostoreuk . It’s worrying to think people might browse the site and think these prices are the usual premium for “eco” goods, let alone the huge resources that have gone into producing these shiny new containers when surely a tub or jar at home will do…🤨 . 🍝 500g Farfelle Pasta. Loop: £3.00 plus £1 deposit. Zero: £1.25 ✅ 🌾 800g Couscous. Loop: £3.90 plus £1 deposit. Zero: £1.60 ✅ 😋 500g Raisins. Loop: £4.50 plus £1 deposit. Zero (ORGANIC) £2.90 ✅ ✨ 400ml All Purpose Cleaner. Loop £5.50 plus £1 deposit. Zero (Cruelty free/Vegan) £1.60! 😮 😮 😮 ✅ 🍪 40g Cinnamon. Loop: £3.20 plus 50p deposit. Zero: £1.40 ✅ . I’m not sure whether they aren’t expecting to get many containers back, or just plain greedy! 😬 But please don’t think your local Zero Waste Shop would charge these kinds of prices for plastic free goods. Plus when you shop local you are ensuring fair wages, a sustainable supply chain, and boosting your local economy! 🌎 Feel free to check out our online store, or pop and see us at 41 Russell Street, Leamington Spa. Our NEW opening hours are: . 🚪 Monday & Tuesday: Closed 💚Wednesday & Thursday: 9am-12 then click and collect from 2-4pm 💚FRIDAY & SATURDAY: 9am-2pm then click and collect 2-4pm 🤩 THIS SUNDAY 19th ONLY: 10am-4pm . ➡️If you’ve got the bottom of this post- thank you, you’re awesome! 😆 See you soon!

A post shared by Zero Waste Leamington Spa (@zerostoreuk) on

How will this impact Tesco’s plastic waste?

Giles Bolton, Responsible Sourcing Director at Tesco, explains that reusing plastic is a vital part of Tesco’s “4R packaging plan” – and this pilot partnership is key to finding a scalable reusable packaging solution for customers. 

The company will listen to feedback from customers and work with Loop to develop and improve the online service throughout the year. “The range will increase over time and next year we will introduce some of the products in reusable packaging into our own stores.”

This is a huge leap in the right direction for UK supermarkets, and is likely to spur on other competitors to do the same too.

Currently, supermarkets in the UK put over 900,000 tonnes of plastic packaging on their shelves a year. And, like most plastic, it finds its way into our oceans or goes into landfill. 

Greenpeace applauded Tesco and Loop for “taking the lead” in making reusable packaging available to customers, and predicted the system would serve as a blueprint for how people shop for groceries in the future.

Although the scheme is already revealing a few flaws, this is certainly something for us to celebrate. As one of the UK’s largest supermarkets, Tesco will be making a huge dent in our overall plastic waste with initiatives like this. 

Written by:
Beth has been writing about green tech, the environment, and climate change for over three years now – with her work being featured in publications such as The BBC, Forbes, The Express, Greenpeace, and in multiple academic journals. Whether you're after a new set of solar panels, energy-saving tips, or advice on how to reduce your carbon footprint, she's got you covered.
Back to Top