The war on plastic pollution has been gathering pace in recent months, but an eco-conscious shopper from Edinburgh has been defeated at the first hurdle after the country’s leading supermarket banned him from bringing his own packaging to carry food home.
Graeme Corry, a retired banker who lives in the Capital, wants to cut the amount of plastic he is using to address rising fears over the impact of waste on the planet. To do this, he has opted do away with unnecessary packaging when shopping for groceries.
But now staff at his local Tesco store in Corstorphine have said he can no longer do this.
“I began taking my own containers to the butcher, cold meat and cheese counters in my local Tesco supermarket,” he said.
“This had been going well for the past two or three weeks until I was told to stop. Staff said there had been instructions from Tesco HQ that customers were not to be served produce in their own containers.”
Staff have reportedly also been reprimanded for allowing customers to refuse cling film and choose an alternative, non-plastic wrapping such as greaseproof paper.
“There must be more people asking for this,” Mr Corry said.
“I don’t know if it’s for health and safety reasons that Tesco won’t allow people to bring their own packaging. Do they think I’m not capable of deciding whether the containers I’m bringing are suitable? Not only that, surely my actions are also saving the company money.”
As part of its Little Helps plan, Tesco has laid out the following commitments to be achieved by 2025; making all packaging fully recyclable or compostable, ensuring all paper and board used will be 100 per cent sustainable, and halving packaging weight compared to 2007 levels.
The Tesco website also addresses “changing customer behaviour”. It states: “We can use marketing and promotions to encourage recycling, use of own containers and choice of packaging purchase.”
Green MSP for Lothian Alison Johnstone said: “Just this month Tesco made a lot of noise about reducing plastic waste, so this decision is inexplicable.
“If someone brings their own container to the deli counter, it costs Tesco less and it doesn’t take any more staff time to fill and weigh.
“Better recycling is worthwhile, but reducing single use plastics is better still, so there’s no excuse for not letting customers do the right thing.
“Reversing this baffling ruling would be a start, but if Tesco were serious about reducing plastic pollution they’d go further and offer discounts for people who bring their own tubs.”
A Tesco spokesman said: “We need to balance our responsibility to sell food in a safe and hygienic way with the feedback we receive from our customers. As part of our ongoing work to reduce the amount of packaging we use, we are actively looking to provide customers with an alternative helpful way of taking food home from our counters.”
Mr Corry, 63, says he will be boycotting the store if Tesco does not change its stance.
“I’ll vote with my feet and I’ll shop elsewhere,” he said.