UK-based supermarket chain Tesco has introduced soft plastic recycling points across 171 stores in England and Wales.

The recycling points accept all soft plastics, including bread bags, fruit and vegetable packaging, crisp packets, salad bags, and pouches for baby and pet food.

Customers can return their previously unrecycled soft plastic to their local point. The plastic will then be washed, sorted and processed at a recycling centre and turned into new packaging.

This is the first time a network of soft plastic collection points of this size has been launched in the UK. Tesco is planning to launch the points at all large stores across the country.

The company aims to collect and recycle 1,000t of soft plastic a year, equivalent to 150 million standard loaf bags.

Tesco quality director Sarah Bradbury said: “It is an absolute priority to remove and reduce as much plastic as possible and ensure everything we use is recycled and kept out of the environment. Where plastic serves an important purpose such as reducing food waste, these new recycling points make sure that every piece can be easily recycled.

“Trials have shown they are popular with customers, so we believe rolling them out at scale will have a real impact.”

Tesco introduced the initiative after carrying out trials in ten of its stores, during which participants returned more than ten times the expected amount of plastic in total.

Material collected at these recycling points has so far been used to produce food-grade packaging for a selection of Tesco cheeses.

Last March, the retailer stopped the sale of plastic-wrapped multi-packs for its tinned products in a move designed to eliminate 350t of plastic waste a year.

In a separate development, supermarket chain Aldi has pledged to reduce packaging materials by 15% and make all its packaging from reusable, recyclable or compostable materials by 2025. It has also announced plans to remove styrofoam from all its packaging by the end of the year.