Tesco is scrapping plastic packaging from its own-brand pocket tissues, in a move that the UK’s largest supermarket says will eliminate almost 35 tonnes of new soft plastic waste each year.

It is the first big supermarket to make the change, which will result in the individual packaging and the wrapping around multipacks of Tesco tissues in its gentle white and balm ranges being replaced with Forest Stewardship Council-certified paper packs.

Tesco started the rollout before Christmas, and said the changes would keep more than 55m pieces of soft plastic from entering landfills and the wider environment every year.

“Unlike boxes of tissues, the pocket version tends to be used on the go and can all too easily become litter,” Tesco’s campaign manager Courtney Pallett said. “The new paper packaging works just as well as the old plastic wrap but is more sustainable.”

Tesco is one of the major signatories of the UK Plastics Pact, which is led by the sustainability charity Wrap and has set targets to hit by 2025, including eliminating problem plastic and ensuring that 100% of plastic packaging can be reusable, recyclable or compostable.

In its latest annual report, the pact’s directors detailed their progress to date, which includes the removal of 730m plastic items from supermarket shelves since 2018, and the fact that rigid plastic packaging is now 94% recyclable.

Tesco says the company has removed almost 2.2bn pieces of plastic from its operations since 2019. That includes wrapping around multipack tins and greetings cards, lids from products including wipes, yoghurts and creams, and plastic bags from its grocery deliveries.

However, part of that pressure has come from government-mandated changes, including rules that came into force in 2020 to restrict the supply of single-use plastic straws, drink stirrers and cotton buds, and a tax introduced in 2022 on plastic packaging that was not at least 30% recycled.

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Meanwhile, the consumption of single-use supermarket plastic bags has fallen by 98% since retailers in England began charging for them in 2015.

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