Supermarkets inhabit a commercial sector that has done reasonably well during the lockdown.  However, always looking to reduce their environmental impact, they continually liaise with supplier companies to see what more can be done to drive down their carbon footprint. Recently, two major paper suppliers (DS Smith and Mondi) have worked with some of the largest supermarkets (Asda and Tesco Central Europe) on the following:

DS Smith
18 Feb. 2021: Asda is set to remove a further one million pieces of plastic from its stores this year after working with packaging giant DS Smith to challenge industry standards and find more sustainable solutions within its shops.

DS Smith SEL comparison

The breakthrough comes after a re-evaluation of an in-store feature many take for granted - price ticket holders on the edge of shelves known as shelf-edge-labels (SELs). ASDA recognised that these were adopted by the temporary point-of-sale industry from permanent shop fixtures as a quick and easy solution to feature price labels. The challenge with SEL holders is that these have been widely accepted as a standard and easy application for displaying price tickets on temporary cardboard displays. However, the nature of the type of plastic used in these fixtures (PVC) means that when they reach the end of their life, they cannot be disposed of in a sustainable way.

By undertaking rigorous trials a solution to use adhesive was reached which could mitigate plastic altogether. The move has been shown to be beneficial to both ASDA and the environment – it means that less than 5% of point-of-sale displays now contain plastic, as such recovering fibres in the recycling process is more efficient and store operation workload is reduced when separating materials at the back of stores.  As a result, ASDA is looking to adapt these point-of-sale guidelines more widely - a simple but effective reassessment that will have savings of approximately 8 tonnes of plastic waste and 21 tonnes of CO2 each year.

The move is the latest in a strong partnership between ASDA and DS Smith which began over seven years ago. Concurrently, ASDA is targeting a 15% reduction on own brand plastic by the end of 2021 while DS Smith, which is known for its sustainable business model, has its own sustainability target to remove 1 billion pieces of plastic from supermarket shelves by 2025. Last year both parties began this journey with an initiative which reduced plastic on point-of-sale displays by 15%; with the latest SEL initiative rolling out it will mean displays in ASDA will get close to being entirely plastic free.   

Angus Jones at DS Smith commented: “Once again, we have worked with the ASDA team to push the boundaries when it comes to plastic replacement and lower the overall carbon footprint in its stores, success that bears testament to our growing and strengthened relationship based on continuing trust and collaboration. This particular advancement is a great example that any step towards sustainability is a step in the right direction and the benefits that our customers can reap when they make subtle but impactful changes are second to none. We look forward to continuing our work with ASDA as it advances further onto its sustainability journey.”

Lisa Walker at ASDA commented:Removing unnecessary plastic is at the top of our minds and is also very important to our customers.  Using less plastic enables us to minimise our environmental impact and we are continually striving to identify opportunities to remove plastic from our business, in favour of innovative and sustainable alternatives. This project with DS Smith has enabled us to remove the plastic SEL holder, as well as making it easier for our shipper units to flow through our cardboard recycling stream.”


2 Mar. 2021: Leading global packaging and paper group Mondi and Tesco Central Europe have launched a new partnership, in which Mondi will purchase the retailer’s warehouse corrugated waste to create recycled paper for the retailers' shopping bags. Tesco is working towards a net zero emission goal, in line with its sustainability targets to remove, reduce, reuse and recycle wherever possible and Mondi is able to contribute to this vision with its customer-centric approach, EcoSolutions.

This is the first time Tesco has collaborated directly with a paper producer to turn its paper waste into a renewable resource in line with their circular economy goals. Mondi uses the retailer’s corrugated waste to produce the EcoVantage grade, in which recycled and fresh fibres are combined to achieve a recyclable and high performing shopping bag. With the EcoVantage paper produced at Mondi’s mill in the Czech Republic, this collaboration shows how suppliers can work with retailers across the value chain to develop circular systems and turn waste back into a valuable resource.

The use of fresh fibre in combination with recycled fibres has multiple benefits. Mondi’s EcoVantage paper combines the strength, printability and appearance of a fresh fibre top layer with the sustainability advantages of a recycled fibre bottom layer.

Paulus Goess, Sales Director Speciality Kraft Paper, Mondi comments, “Our EcoSolutions approach means we collaborate very closely with our customers to create the best possible product for their needs – using paper where possible and plastic when useful. We have been working on this project with Tesco for over two years, with the aim of reusing their warehouse waste to create a quality product that is strong in terms of peformance, based on renewable resources, uses recycled materials and can in turn be fully recycled and ultimately contribute to a circular economy. Our strong EcoVantage paper allows consumers to re-use the shopping bag multiple times despite the recycled content and Tesco encourages its consumers to do so.”

Nóra Hevesi, Head of Communication at Tesco in Hungary adds: “As a responsible retailer, reducing and reusing our waste is essential for us. In 2019 we made a public commitment to make our own brand packaging more sustainable. Our target is to make packaging 100% recyclable by 2025 and to reduce packaging wherever possible. We’ve already made great progress by removing 454 tonnes of hard-to-recycle material from our packaging so far, and it is exciting that we are able to close the loop by recycling our warehouse paper waste and use the recycled fibres in our shopper bags. We know how important sustainable and high quality shopping bags are to our customers, so we are communicating the recycled fibre content and the closed loop concept on the underside of the shopping bags as part of our consumer information. We continue to review our packaging needs for all our products by challenging the specification towards more sustainable alternatives and focusing on how we can increase the amount of recycled content we use even further.”

Tesco has rolled out the shopping bags created with Mondi’s EcoVantage paper in an initial pilot across Hungary, Poland, Czech Republic and Slovakia in November 2020.