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UPDATE: Tesco to remove local authority bring banks from its premises

Tesco has announced plans to remove local authority recycling facilities from its premises in a letter sent to all local authorities.

A spokesman for the retailer told MRW that the phase-out of recycling bins and banks which are not operated by the company will occur “during the next few months”. It is thought they will be replaced by bins operated by waste contractor DS Smith.

A Tesco spokesman said: “This new partnership will help to boost efforts to meet the UK’s overall recycling targets by making the recycling facilities in our stores more attractive and by rewarding customers through a donation to local community projects when they recycle with us. 

“Some councils told us they were worried they would no longer be able to maintain their store recycling facilities, so we developed this scheme which we think will complement the great work that councils are doing to increase doorstep recycling.”   

But LARAC principal policy officer Andrew Craig told MRW he was “disappointed” with the move, which appears to disregard a previous code of practice agreed in 1999between the organisation and the British Retail Consortium (BRC) on the operation of supermarket recycling facilities.

He said: “We have been having discussions with retailers, including Tesco, and the BRC on renewing the previous code of practice since 2009. The code of practice is concerned with who is responsible [for supermarket recycling facilities]. We wanted to update this.”

Craig added that Tesco has asked councils for agreements which involve payments for the upkeep of recycling facilities, in exchange for data on the tonnages recycled, although he added that Tesco haven’t, in every case, require to be paid a full recycling credit.

He said: “Local authorities want to work in partnership with retailers, discuss best arrangements for supermarket co-operation and are happy to help retailers promote facilities with agreement. But they do not have the funds to help supermarkets pay for their own facilities.”

Other major supermarkets have no plans to follow suit.

A Sainsbury’s spokesman said: “We are aware of the challenges facing councils’ recycling budgets and we currently have no plans to change our procedures. If councils wish to alter their recycling systems, we will negotiate with each council on a case by case basis.”

A Waitrose spokesman said: “We are committed to helping our customers recycle and we provide recycling facilities in our car parks wherever possible.  The vast majority of these facilities are council-run and we have no plans to change this.”

BRC head of environment Bob Gordon told MRW: “A lot of this started with Cornwall saying ‘we are going to remove funding for our bring sites in your car parks’. Some supermarkets dealt with it by taking that responsibility in-house, while others did not want to take the cost on. It’s not black and white that this is a money earner [for Tesco]. It is something that costs in some local authorities and earns in others, depending on the kerbside collection.

“I think Tesco has essentially said ‘we’re going to take control and offer a consistent service that remains consistent for consumers’. The positive story is that Tesco services will remain the same or improve, and the company is going to take any of the revenue and put it through the Tesco schools and clubs schemes.”

LGA environment board vice chairman Cllr Clyde Loakes said: “This decision takes a valuable revenue stream away from councils which was used to reduce the cost to council taxpayers of dealing with municipal waste.

“Since 2005 retailers have failed to reduce the amount of packaging they produce. In addition, each year more than five million tonnes of edible food waste is discarded, largely because retailers actively encourage consumers to buy more than they can consume. As the market leader Tesco should demonstrate how it will help address these issues to reduce the annual £560 million cost of landfill which falls on council taxpayers.”

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