Tesco is following Coca-Cola and other major companies in piloting a DRS to help reduce waste in the UK

Tesco is to launch trials of a pilot deposit return scheme, in a move to explore how the system could work in practice.

The UK’s biggest retailer swung its weight fully behind the system this week in a new document setting out its plans to try to reduce plastic pollution.

It revealed it is working with a string of as yet unnamed suppliers to look at how DRS can be operated “at scale”.

Today Tesco CEO Dave Lewis said it was vital Theresa May, who set out government plans to eliminate all avoidable plastic waste by the end of 2042, came up with “holistic” proposals to tackle plastic use.

But sources close to the retailer said it was also stressing to ministers that DRS, seen as one of the key weapons to reduce plastic pollution, would only work if it could be rolled out by suppliers and retailers at a national level, in a way that did not impose unreasonable costs on the industry.

In the new position statement, Tesco said: “We do support developing a cost-effective deposit return system (DRS) and are currently working with a number of partners to scope a project to explore how this can operate in practice and at scale.

“We view DRS as only one aspect of the holistic approach that is required to achieve the broader goals of reducing waste and increasing recycling in the UK.”

Speaking on the release of Tesco’s Christmas trading results earlier today, Lewis said: “I think we’re in agreement with the need to review packaging.

“I’ll have a look at the idea of how it is we can reduce plastic packaging in fresh. It’s something we look at all of the time. But I have to say I’d be really keen to see something which is much more holistic around the total challenge around plastic packaging and how it is we can create more closed loop systems so that when we do have to use it it’s designed properly, it’s recovered properly, it’s recycled properly so that we create that closed loop.

“That’s the sort of big impact that I’d really like to see us make.”

Louise Edge, senior oceans campaigner at Greenpeace UK, said Tesco’s support was a major breakthrough in the campaign for DRS.

“It’s great news that Britain’s biggest retailer has come out firmly in support of deposit return schemes,” she said.

“The ocean plastic problem is complex and some areas will require innovation, but there is plenty of low-hanging fruit, and one of the lowest and ripest is a deposit return scheme for bottles. They have been tried and tested across the developed world and they work, increasing the collection rate for plastic bottles up to 96%.

“The public support DRS, at least three of our supermarket chains now support DRS, even Coca-Cola support DRS, and the Scottish government have committed to introducing a scheme there. Instead of announcing vague aspirations for 2043, the government should be implementing a DRS right now.”